View All Articles

Why Most Strategic Plans Don’t Work

By Robert W. Bradford, President and CEO

Strategic Planning Expert Robert W. Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some interesting conversations with a client about what we do in strategic planning.  You see, there are lots of approaches to strategic planning – some of which work – but we do something just a bit differently than most.  Many people like to work within the frameworks that great thinkers like Peter Drucker and Michael Porter have added to the discipline – and those are wonderful.  But, while frameworks help with strategic thinking, they aren’t enough to cause strategic thinking.  What this means is that many, many companies have a “strategic plan” that looks like it should have good strategy in it – but it does not.  You may have a SWOT analysis, you may have looked at your competency, and you may have your mission, vision and values identified, but if you don’t have real strategic thinking, you are just using up time and paper on your plan.

So, what do we do differently?  In Simplified Strategic Planning, we certainly cover the useful bits you would expect.  But beyond that, we push you past your comfort zone into the real data, the real ways to test your ideas, and real results.  And that’s the thing I see missing in many strategic plans – reality.  A plan is just a piece of paper until you translate it into action, and most models of strategic planning miss this critical element entirely.  How do you turn your plan into reality?  When you encounter obstacles, how do you handle them?

In our practice with companies, we consider ourselves about two thirds done when we have set our strategy, goals and objectives.  Over the past 34 years, we have tested and tweaked a practical system for managing strategy execution with thousands of companies, constantly changing the approach to get better results.  Yet over that time, the most commonly skipped parts of the process are those steps we’ve developed specifically to get better strategy implementation.  The execution process is not sexy, it’s not full of impressive buzzwords – but it works.  Do you pay attention to execution in your company?  Could it be the reason your plans don’t lead to the results you want?

For more information on how to execute your strategic plan, please listen to our webinar: Strategic Execution: Path to Profitability.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.
© Copyright 2015 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution