Talking with a client team about facilitating its strategic planning process, we discussed why completed strategic plans sit on shelves.

There are multiple reasons for this unfortunate situation.

I think an important reason is when a strategic planning process focuses on the wrong issues. It happens so often: people launch into strategic planning and begin to talk and think differently than during daily business activities. They also assume the things they work on every day must not be part of the strategic planning process.

Put all those things together, and if left unchecked, you wind up with a strategic plan disconnected from the organization's daily activities and reading like a document foreign to the organization.

A Strategic Planning Process Focused on the Wrong Issues

I shared a story from my corporate days to demonstrate how easily strategic planning gets disconnected from what matters.

We spent 3/4 of a day working on the strategic plan for a cross-border transportation service. We were going through all the typical strategic planning exercises. We worked with the brand manager to complete and review a SWOT analysis, identified (and prioritized) important opportunities, and spelled out tactics to implement the opportunities.

Late in the afternoon, the brand manager said the service was in violation of certain governmental regulations. The remedy to address the violation was not immediately clear. If the brand team could not figure out what to do quickly, the government was threatening to shut down the service within a few weeks.

I about fell to the ground.

Heck, maybe I did fall to the ground. There would be precedent for it.

I asked what would have made the team think we should spend most of the day working on next year's planning when the biggest issue facing the service RIGHT NOW could halt the revenue stream within a month.

The problem?

The brand manager interpreted “strategic” as “long-term.” The catastrophe that could shut down the service was not long-term. Since it was immediate, he didn't think the impending shut down was relevant for strategic planning.


Ever since then, we employ a series of questions to ferret out incredibly strategic make-or-break issues a client does not, for some reason, think are strategic.

Are you planning for your biggest day-to-day issues?

If your organization's plans sit on the shelf, contact us, and let's talk about how we attack that issue from multiple fronts so strategic planning creates strategic impact and results for you! - Mike Brown

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