By Robert W. Bradford, President/CEO
Far too often, companies put off their strategic planning – or even fall completely off the wagon – because of major strategic initiatives. It might be an acquisition, a system upgrade, a relocation or a marketing initiative, but whatever the project is, it is so big that the management team feels there is “no time for planning”.
Sadly, these initiatives often can drag the organization far off course. This could mean that some strategic discussions which would be most useful before and during such a major effort as these are not held. The potential pitfall here is that the core business could go awry, or that other major projects could be slighted. The problem, of course, is that sometimes we do have good opportunities that require a great deal of our time and money – and that strategic planning is rarely seen as one of the most urgent uses of time or money. This means that, in order to assure we have resources to complete a big project, it’s easy to see skipping the strategic planning cycle as a practical shortcut to alleviating our resource issues.
Here are some important questions to ask before – and during – a big initiative that uses so much time and money that it seems like a good idea to skip strategic planning:
- How can we assure we don’t get off track with our strategy while pursuing this project?
- How will we address threats and opportunities that arise during this initiative?
- Is it appropriate to put so much time and money into a project that it curtails other activity in the company?
- Can we do strategic planning with fewer resources?
- Are we “betting the farm” on this initiative by putting other worthwhile projects on hold?
For many companies we’ve worked with, the four to seven days we spend in a strategic planning cycle are a pittance compared to the dollars and hours that are dedicated to special projects. Indeed, the action plan review process itself often provides a vital checkpoint for the larger project while assuring that other vital projects also stay on track. With proper forethought, we can pursue large initiatives and keep the normal planning cycles going. For others, it requires some careful picking and choosing to determine which parts of the planning process we will do this year. At the very least, you should consider having a day to evaluate strategic issues and current objectives and a half day to plan resource use and schedule action plans.
We’ve seen too many cases of organizations that leave the planning track for good – often to fail or be acquired several years down the road, because they lost the discipline of strategic planning with an objective, experienced professional. Good, routine strategic planning – even in a skeletal form – will help you avoid making the mistakes that lead to these disasters. If you are considering a major project – or even in the middle of one – We hope you will make sure you consider this issue seriously and contact us if we may assist you in your strategic planning.
© Copyright 2011 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.