Follow-through -- the Key to Strategic Planning Success
Does your company think that developing a strategic plan, printing it and distributing it to the appropriate population within your company actually completes the whole process? Or is it dedicated to actually carrying out the decisions the planning team made during the strategic planning process?
Many companies go through a reasonably diligent process to arrive at a potentially effective strategic plan. They involve key people who are in positions to know what is really happening in the company and in the market place. They make strong efforts to analyze what is really going on with their customer-markets and with their competitors. Assumptions about where each part of the company will be headed are made, with care taken to be as realistic as possible.
Strengths and weaknesses are analyzed, so the company may build on the strengths, and address any critical weaknesses which could affect the viability of the company in the future. Sustainable competitive advantages, which we call strategic competencies, are determined, and efforts scheduled to enhance these advantages to make the company even stronger in its chosen markets.
Strategic issues -- those issues which can strategically affect the course and direction of the company -- are chosen, prioritized and discussed in depth. After a quick reality check to avoid discoverable unintended consequences from the decisions just made, the team attacks its strategies.
In strategies, the team selects the appropriate course and direction for its core businesses, lists new opportunities to pursue and selects strategies to improve the strategic competencies, enhance corporate capabilities and develop the key personnel in the company. Targets for growth rates are selected at this time.
Here is where the problem of follow-through can arise. All too often, when a company has selected its strategies, they think they are finished with strategic planning. But, without effective follow-through and monitoring, only a small portion of the actions will actually be accomplished.
The planning team needs to establish Objectives: Specific, time-related and measurable projects which will not happen unless an action plan is established and followed. An action plan is simply a written road map of how to accomplish an objective, broken into controllable steps, with people assigned the responsibility of carrying out each step, time to do so, and a month by month schedule formally agreed upon.
As effective as the action plan process is, it is only one step in the follow up process. Regular monthly monitoring is required to make sure that each action plan is kept on schedule, and so each action plan can be \"tweaked\" to meet the ever-changing conditions on the real world. Failure to add monitoring to the strategic planning process will result in lack of progress and loss of confidence in the strategic planning process within the company, as well as possible lower sales and profits, potentially reduced viability of the company and loss of morale by those who have assumed ownership of the plan. Without effective monitoring, most companies will complete only about 20-30% of their action plans. With monitoring, the completion rate most often soars to well over 80% completion essentially on time, with good progress on the remaining Objectives.
Which way does your company complete its strategic planning?
Dan Baldwin is a Senior Consultant at the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning. He can be reeched at