I have some clients that do their strategic planning irregularly. They will plan annually for a couple of years, and then take a break for a year or two. While sometimes skipping a cycle makes sense, doing strategic planning routinely every year is tremendously valuable.
First, implementation is the main reason consistent, routine strategic planning is valuable.
Strategy implementation activities are rarely routine activities, yet routine activities often get higher priority. One key to the success of Simplified Strategic Planning is the emphasis on making strategic activities both scheduled and routine. By giving these activities this status enhancement, we place forward strategic progress on the front burner for your organization. Additionally, this allows you to build market share and profitability faster than your competitors. In other words, routine implementation management gives you a tremendous, real strategic advantage. Alternatively, failure to do regular annual cycles simply pulls your company back down to the level of your competitors. Furthermore, it sacrifices a fairly easy strategic advantage you could have.
Second, the way we think about and use strategy is another reason why regular planning is beneficial.
Routine awareness of strategic issues and priorities helps your team stay focused on things that will help you succeed. Conversely, distraction from strategy inevitably opens the door to poor focus. Also, it increases the possibility of expending resources to move in the wrong direction. First, your team has daily pressures that distract them from good strategic thinking. Second, customers want you to over promise and undercharge. Third, your employees want less accountability and easier work. Finally, your investors may want you to spend money in ways that are inconsistent with a good strategy. Succumbing to these pressures gets easier when you’re not reminded of why you do the things you do.
Finally,the importance of good strategic decision making drives why regular planning is critical.
To make good strategic decisions, your team must have good information. A regular planning cycle assures you will be analyzing consistent information on a more routine basis. Irregular planning throws the monkey wrench of inconsistent information into the mix, which weakens your analysis. For example, some of your income statements from 5 or 10 years ago may be quite different from this year. The nature of ad spending has likely changed, for example, which means it has become difficult to compare these line items in your income statement. By assessing these numbers every year, your team can get a sense of the changes and their strategic impact. If you skip a few years, you end up comparing apples to oranges. Thus a lack of clear understanding of the implications and trends may cloud your strategic decisions.
Has your company done strategic planning regularly in the past? Would you like help assuring you have a more regular cycle in the future? For great ideas on how to improve the quality of your planning, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consider holding a one-day workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning.
M. Dana Baldwin is Senior Strategist with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: email@example.com