Why strategic plans do fail

Why strategic plans do fail

Over the years, I’ve met many wonderful executives in my speaking and the simplified strategic planning seminar.  I’m sad and perplexed when the CEO leaves the seminar inspired to do great strategic planning – and then falters.  While some companies find difficulty in completing the first cycle, their process often falters after successfully completing the first cycle.

You’ve created a great plan once, and done maybe two or more cycles– and then you lose steam.  Is this a bad thing?  My experience says it’s awful, because there is a BIG upside to keeping your strategic plan alive.  There is a HUGE benefit to consistently fine-tuning your strategies to keep your company on course for success.  Come up with new information, new assumptions and new ideas.  Challenge previous assessments and analyses.  Review and revise strategies.  Develop new strategic objectives.  Revise budgets and schedules and develop new action plans.  Companies that routinely repeat the planning process every year outperform those that don’t.

So why do some companies stop, after initial success with strategic planning?

It’s not urgent, so the strategic planning process falters

This is the Achilles’ heel of strategic planning – strategic things are critically important, but rarely urgent (unless it’s too late).  There is no way around this – your team needs to have the ability to step back from cutting wood and, (as Stephen Covey put it) sharpen the saw.  If you can’t do this once a year, you will miss the benefits of annual strategic planning.  My own company and many of my clients reap the benefits of annual strategic planning.

It’s hard work, so the strategic planning process falters

Strategic planning – and strategy implementation – are harder work than most people expect.  This is because real strategic change is about learning how to do things better than you have in the past – and learning how to do things you’ve never done in the past.  It is probably harder than your routine activities, in your company, and it’s easy to pretend we don’t have to work so hard.  You may get away with that for a while.  However, your markets will change, your competitors will not stand still and new developments could ultimately kill your company (think Kodak).

Something may happen that takes priority, so the strategic planning process falters

This is the most common issue.  Indeed, good strategic planning can instigate activities and changes that are so big that it feels impossible to manage any stable, ongoing processes.  Rest assured, if you have this issue, you are not alone – and you can stay on track with the strategic planning process and manage the big things that are happening in your company.  After your first year or two of strategic planning you can use a lean, cut-down version.  Focusing on results-driving activities, this process should take no more than a day of preparation, a two day strategy meeting, and a day of implementation planning.  Done well, this will keep your strategy moving forward.

In the final analysis, good strategic planning is about results.  It’s about helping you do the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.  Keeping your strategic planning alive is the best way to move your company in that direction, regardless of what is happening today.

Why keep your strategic planning alive?  Have you encountered the pitfalls mentioned?  If you’d like to learn more about how you can avoid these pitfalls, consider attending the Simplified Strategic Planning seminar.

For more on Why Strategic Planning? Click here.

Robert Bradford is President & CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.

M. Dana Baldwin is Senior Strategist with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: baldwin@cssp.com

Co-Author, M. Dana Baldwin

Robert Bradford

Co-Author, Robert Bradford

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