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Getting Better Results from Strategic Planning

Updated: Jun 30, 2019

Three signs that your strategic planning process is incomplete and won’t get the results you expect.

Strategic planning can no doubt be a very complex and detailed process, sometimes much more complex than it really needs to be. Large and mid-size companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for external strategic planning consultants, a cost difficult to bear for many companies. But, regardless of company size a good strategic planning process is still critical to success and growth.

Strategic planning does not need to be an external consultant driven process. In fact many times with consultants, companies are left with a great binder of recommendations but in the end they fail to implement outsider recommendations.

There are huge costs associated with an incomplete planning process:

  • Erosion of leadership in the market and a sense of falling behind;

  • Failure to achieve desired financial and operational results;

  • Frustration throughout the organization and the perception that strategic planning is a waste of time; and

  • Loss of credibility of the leadership team.

We believe a coaching model strategic planning process can be a more effective way of executing strategic development with a company. A good strategic planning process must include three important elements. If your organization skips or poorly executes one of these elements, it is unlikely you will get results from the process that you expect.

One: Answer the “big” strategic planning questions – but without jargon or by spending a fortune on a consulting firm. The big questions include: Who are our customers and how can we better serve them? Who are our competitors and how can we beat them? What do we do best and how can we build on that edge? How can we prepare the organization to defend against threats and seize opportunities? What are potential scenarios that we need to consider for the future, and how will we prepare for them?

Unfortunately, many organizations debate these issues with academic discussions and confusing jargon. They are like philosophers trying to decide how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. At the same time, some organizations come up with brilliant answers to these questions but can’t quite take them to the point of clear initiatives that get done. The big strategic planning questions are worthless if they don’t result in a few clear, compelling strategic initiatives to strengthen the organization.

Two: Set a few clear priorities and an overall strategic theme. The most important outcome of the first part of the strategic planning process is to identify the most important priorities for the organization. Starting with a long list of potential priorities, the organization discusses the relative value of each, and then hones in on only a few key priorities. This discussion can also lead to greater clarity about the big strategic planning questions, especially about what the organization should do best.

Once a list of no more than three to five priorities is agreed upon, the organization can come up with a strategic theme. This is a one-line statement that conveys the overall strategic push for the organization. Examples could include: “Beat Google!” “Expand to China.” “0% medical errors.” “Become a magnet for talent.”

During this phase, many organizations settle for a long list of priorities instead a critical, targeted few. This has the benefit that nobody feels excluded or insulted. However, it makes it highly unlikely that the organization will get anything done completely.

Three: Execution. The biggest complaint we hear about strategy is that it never seems to get fully executed. There are a few reasons why:

  • Neglecting to commit essential resources to the strategy, including capital, training, technology, and people.

  • Failing to take things off the plate of busy employees, and instead just stacking more work on them.

  • Having lack of will to stop old initiatives that compete with the new.

  • Not setting clear roles, responsibilities, accountability, and rewards systems.

  • Giving up after a few setbacks or initial resistance.

A sound strategy spends as much time on implementation planning as it does on the more glamorous work of answering the key strategic questions and setting priorities.

Which of the above areas is weakest in your organization? Some organizations are strong at asking the big picture questions but fail to follow through. Some set too many priorities, and can’t say “no” to good ideas, despite limited resources. Others are strong at executing but lack the vision to develop compelling strategic initiatives.

The LEAPS Coaching Group can help. We have a proven Strategic Leadership process that incorporates the 3-part process described above. The process helps to ensure you develop a strategic plan that is focused on the right initiatives, engages and motivates your team, clarifies the priorities and purpose, eliminates confusion and waste, ensures feedback during execution, in addition to maximizing productivity. The 3-part strategic planning process is not complex, it helps to simplify implementation yet is very powerful and gets results efficiently. Download our free quick strategic planning assessment tool to gauge your current process and contact us if you would like to learn more.

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