Talking with a potential client, we discussed strategic planning questions for next year, and how his company approaches strategic planning differently each year. The year-to-year changes are prompted by shortcomings in how effectively it has been able to approach strategic management under various planning methods.
During our conversation, we discussed a variety of strategic planning pitfalls his company has faced. From our experience, there wasn't anything new or surprising. But what do you do to combat them?
7 Strategic Planning Questions to Ask about Your Organization
To get a sense of the effectiveness of your current or proposed strategic planning process, ask these seven questions. Keep track of your answers since they'll help identify pitfalls to address in avoiding major strategic management disconnects in upcoming planning efforts:
1. Is our strategic plan organized in a way that makes sense for our company?
Even small organizations with some degree of organizational complexity can struggle to pick the best way to structure and organize a strategic planning process. Who knows whether the strategic plan should be organized by customers, product lines, market opportunities, new initiatives, departments . . . or something else entirely? Not picking the right structure to fit your company can turn both strategic planning and implementing the plan into disasters.
2. Does the timing of our strategic planning process fit our business cycle?
A typical strategic planning approach crams an annual, relatively complex, highly intense effort into a company’s late third or early fourth quarter. This timing almost presupposes the inevitable delays that take place and allow planning to slip into the late fourth quarter without too much harm. While this approach supports getting next year’s budget done in time (just barely), it may totally ignore other strategic management patterns in the company.
3. Is our strategic planning purely a financial and forecasting exercise?
Many organizations view strategic planning as simply a financial and forecasting effort. The line organization generates a forecast (or has one imposed) and estimates costs to hit the revenue target. Often, there is very little detail on how or where revenue growth will originate. When strategic planning is a financial exercise and no one is too concerned with HOW revenue targets are met, managing by the seat of the pants throughout the year wins out over coordinated strategic management.
4. Does our strategic planning seem disconnected from what the company is doing right now?
When the organization’s strategic management mindset is that strategy is only something long-term, you can end up with a strategic plan containing only future initiatives with some far off completion date. Since the “future” never comes, what is identified in the strategic plan may reference only a few current activities. In this case, it becomes largely disconnected from the day-to-day activities that grow a dynamic business.
5. Are we including everything we do in the strategic plan?
Some organizations equate strategic with “all-inclusive.” Strategic planning in this scenario starts with the wonderful intention, but wretched reality, of trying to account for EVERYTHING the organization does and will do. Saddled with too much detail, strategic planning typically starts falling apart during development. If a completed plan actually sees the light of day, it soon falls apart because it has tried to close off the real-time flexing an organization needs to function and succeed.
6. Does our strategic planning process feel too functionally and process-oriented?
When strategic planning is driven by (and by “driven by,” I mean “forced onto”) the line organization by a functional department (i.e., Finance, Marketing, Corporate Development, etc.), there is a real danger. Strategic planning done in this way seems to help functional departments know what to do, but they lack critical connections to how they support P&L-related activities. Who cares about having the best financial processes when you cannot serve and grow your customer base?
7. Do we know who will lead implementation of the completed strategic plan?
When an organization struggles with organizing the plan to be relevant and drive activities, the resulting document typically represents many compromises during its preparation. The plan will have confused connections to the organization, with no clear ownership and responsibility for implementation. As the plan rolls out, it will create numerous situations similar to a short high fly in baseball. If an outfielder and a couple of infielders have surrounded the area where the baseball is headed, but no one knows who is actually supposed to step up and catch it, the baseball drops to the ground through lack of responsibility and coordination.
How did you answer these questions for your organization?
Give yourself one point each for answering “No” to strategic planning questions 1, 2, and 7, or “Yes” to strategic planning questions, 3 through 6. The more points you have, the more of a challenge you’ll have in successful strategic planning and implementation.
If you had a score of more than two or three, and you have strategic planning questions you need to answer regarding how to get your planning completed this year, you owe it to yourself to contact The Brainzooming Group. We’ll troubleshoot your strategic planning issues and offer a no-cost perspective on how to successfully get your strategic planning done and successfully implemented in the coming year. - Mike Brown
If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.
If you’re struggling to lead a viable strategic planning effort, The Brainzooming Group can be the strategic catalyst you need. We will apply our strategic thinking, innovation, and implementation tools on to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around planning and implementation challenges.