The logic makes sense. “Tell me what you need to know, and I’ll get my team to put it together for you” promises a manager. “Great!” thinks the planner, “my plan will come together nicely”. “I’ll produce some templates so that all the information will be consistent for senior management”.
Are your alarm bells ringing yet?
No? OK so let’s keep going….
A few weeks later all the templates have been submitted and the planners have done a great job identifying common themes and collating. The hundred page slide deck is presented to senior management for their annual strategic review meeting. It goes well, the plan is tweaked, signed off and cascaded across the company. Great job team!
Well it’s a bit like knowing how to get fitter without actually trying. Whilst many people think that they can get fit “when they want or need to”, relatively few actually succeed. That’s because the mental effort is just as important as the physical.
A strategic planning round that compresses senior management’s mental preparation into a short meeting, and/or delegates it to juniors, is unlikely to be adequate preparation for the future. In a stable and growing market a poor strategic plan may not cause the business future problems, although it might miss valuable opportunities. In today’s fast changing and turbulent times, failure to plan really is planning to fail.
A great strategic plan
- can be produced in a couple of days of focussed conversations (it should not become a major exercise that dominates the business for weeks)
- the discussions and conclusions are far more important than the document
- conversations should be about scenarios, what/ifs, how tos, options, choices, decisions, triggers, alignment, prioritisation, indictors, ruling things out, risks vs rewards, etc
- people should leave mentally prepared to compete
And as we’re discussing a thinking activity, let me leave you with 3 questions to consider!
- Is strategic planning a compliance or value add activity?
- Are you interested in your results beyond the end of the current period?
- Would you prefer to anticipate and prepare for the future, or just deal with it when it arrives?
The person who does not worry about the future will shortly have worries about the present.
Ancient Chinese proverb