An assumption I sometimes encounter is that strategic planning only yields predictable, middle of the road actions for a company. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Strategic planning sets an appropriate course for your business that maximizes growth-ability, profit-ability and survive-ability. Sometimes that course stays in familiar territory, and sometimes the course can go far from where you started.
Why do we assume strategic planning tends to yield staid, tried-and-true solutions?
One reason is the emphasis most good planning approaches place on focus. Focus keeps our attention on markets, products and services that we can address profitably – a good thing. Unfortunately, focus can be taken too far. When it is, it may prevent us from considering innovative strategies that fit our strategic competencies. When examining focus, it pays to consider how much room for growth you have within the area of focus. Furthermore, consider whether any true innovation is available to you in that space.
Another reason we assume strategy yields boring results is the sometimes “normative approach” many take to strategy.
If you only pursue strategies where there is great consensus in your team, you may find yourself limited to exactly what you are doing right now. A strategic planning process that simply “rubber stamps” a continuation of the status quo isn’t really strategic planning. It’s closer to operations planning. To fight this, pay particular attention to innovative strategies that seem to inflame people’s passions, both for and against. In addition, always give voice to the contrarians in your group – they may hold the key to an exciting future.
Finally, many people assume strategic planning doesn’t stimulate “out of the box” thinking. This is because there is a strong tendency to stay focused within the box. Too much focus on what your competitors are doing can do this. Relying on outsiders from within your industry for strategic insight also keeps the focus within the box. Always try to look beyond your industry for solutions, when you can.
Is there anything else we can do to assure our strategic planning gives us creative ideas and innovative strategies for your company?
There are plenty of other options, but the most important one is a clear-headed look at your company’s strategic competency. Competency-based strategy can take your company to exciting new areas of innovative strategy while assuring you maintain valuable know-how that gives you a real competitive advantage in the marketplace.
If you’d like to think about a competency-based strategic plan that will deliver exciting innovative strategies while maintaining practical focus on implementation, contact us. I’ll be happy to help you steer your company in the right direction. 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.
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