Help! We don’t have time for strategic planning! I’ve heard variations of this plea dozens of times in the past few years. Clearly, some companies get into situations where the management team needs to focus on specific issues that come up – either by design or happenstance. Maybe your company is one of them. How can we handle this problem, and still stay on course?
First, I’ve pointed out before that staying consistent in your strategic planning has a tremendous value.
While this is true, it’s also true that dealing with urgent issues can become a huge preoccupation in any company. The first thing to do, then, is to make sure the urgent issue really should have priority. A good question to ask is “What happens if we spend time on other issues while this issue is urgent?” It’s also sometimes useful to ask, “What happens if we postpone or shorten our strategic planning?” Obviously, if delaying or reducing time spent on one or the other doesn’t matter, the decision is easy.
If your choice is not easy, you may have to look at one of two options.
Either spend much less time on the process or delay it until you can give it priority. Both choices have downsides. If you cut time out of the process, you may fail to consider key information or issues. This can lead to poor strategy, which can be disastrous and expensive. On the other hand, if you postpone, there are two risks I’ve seen over the years. One risk is that your strategy may become inappropriate as changes in your markets and environment make prior decisions obsolete. This can end up being the same as having a bad strategy. You end up using a strategy that was once good, but no longer leads to success. The second – and most common – problem is that the strategic planning process is never seen as urgent enough to resume. Sadly, this problem is something I’ve seen far too often with companies that end up in serious trouble years later. Why? Because strategy is never urgent – until it’s too late.
Usually, the best course is to find some time to at least update your strategic plan.
We recommend at least four days a year. A brief update, while not as rich, thorough or useful as the full cycle, will at least keep you afloat. Furthermore, it will give you a chance to make some adjustments based on developments. Of course, if you are faced with this issue, we’d love to discuss it with you. We’ll give you some pointers about how to get the best out of the situation.
How have you handled the interruptions of urgent matters in your company? As always, we’d love to hear of anything that has worked well – or not – for you. For great ideas on how to improve the quality of your planning, contact me at email@example.com. Consider holding a one-day workshop of Simplified Strategic Planning.
Dana Baldwin is Senior Strategist with the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2019 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI – Reprint permission