There are at least nine different ways to make sure everybody’s favorite activity, Strategic Planning, fails. Those nine, sure-fire methods are:
1st: Keep whatever you are planning a secret. The competitive environment requires that we keep our strategic thinking under wraps. We don’t want anything important to get out. Besides, what would the rest of the organization do with the plan if they had it? They don’t really need to know the big picture.
2nd: Conduct strategy planning with managers only. Take a group of top management personnel off to a nice site for a couple of days. After all, they are paid to think. If you involve other people you may have to contend with input you cannot predict or control.
3rd: Be polite & don’t rock the boat. Since you were invited to the planning meeting you must be important (see above). Now just keep quiet (plain common sense). If you keep your thoughts to yourself, you will not be associated with a failure. Besides, you don’t want to upset anyone.
4th: Advocate doing everything. This approach is very effective. Everybody agrees there are a lot of things to do, and it makes sense that we’d be better off if they all got done. So, put as many “strategies” as you can think of on a list, prioritize them, agree to do everything and go home. Everybody feels great; nobody really finishes anything, and life goes on.
5th: Let the plan implement itself. Talk about a “no-brainer”. Everybody feels pretty good after the planning sessions, even if they are a bit tired. Nobody is going to object if we don’t fill in all the implementation details. Let the responsible people take care of implementation themselves, later on.
6th: Don’t measure anything. Another “no-brainer”. Some companies spell out their strategies all the way down to milestones, deliverables, resources, etc. Avoid this at all costs. Use these arguments to avoid wasteful effort:
“You can’t measure what we do.” or; “Our business is different”.
7th: Do not revise the plan for any reason during the year. A lot of effort goes into strategy planning. Don’t revise your thinking just because business isn’t working out like you originally thought. How many times do you want to go through this anyway?
8th: Start over next year from scratch. When next year comes around enjoy the off-site meetings and start all over. Forget about last year.
9th: Don’t take time to plan at all. This is probably the easiest approach. After all, who has time for planning? Everybody claims they are already working as hard as they can. Should they stop working just to talk?
Some or all of the “nine ways” displayed above may be funny, may relate to somebody else’s business, or may seem all too familiar at your business. What is certain is that the wrong approach, or no approach, to strategic planning is an excellent way to reinforce “business as usual”. If however, you prefer improvement to status quo, don’t let any of the above different ways “…to make sure strategic planning fails” gain acceptance in your business.
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