Over the past few years I have seen many strategic plans, discussed almost ad nauseam the ramifications of a strategic plan and even assisted some companies to develop one.
There are, of course, classic dangers in that the planning exercise itself generates a good deal of enthusiasm until the excitement wears off and everyone resorts to the normal day to day operations.
Cynical? A little but possibly with good reason because there seem to be two aspects of the strategic planning process which don’t always appear to be rated as highly as they should.
One is the lack of a formal action plan so that results can be made visible. What is the value of going through the tortuous process of planning the strategy for the business and then filing the resultant report under S in the filing cabinet? A swift look at it after a year just to see how we went on seems to be the maximum which can be expected.
The ideal action plan includes several critical criteria which will lead to a regular assessment of the current position and allow changes to be made if necessary.
There always should be a champion for the plan who will cajole and nag to ensure that action is taken. Furthermore, the overall plan should be broken down to a series of objectives, time-based, for which specific members of the team are given responsibility.
Perhaps the most important factor is an accountability structure so that everyone knows what needs to be done, does it and is held accountable to a nominated individual for the completion of each task.
Finally, there should be regular meetings to analyse the current position and to make changes as necessary.
Remember, as Vistage speaker, Herb Meyer, says, “No plan can survive its collision with reality” so understand that any strategy is a living organism and should change according its needs.
This is a very short and necessarily truncated description of an action plan and if you would like some more information then please get in touch – I will be happy to help.
The second failing of many strategic plans is the concentration on operational matters and a strong financial bias while almost ignoring the fact that that the top team may well design the strategy but in the end, it is the people who will make sure that it works.
Perhaps the most important aspect of any strategy is the involvement of those who are going to implement the plan and as far as I can recall they don’t normally figure in the plans, at least at a significant level.
It isn’t just the question of whether we have the right people; it is also whether we train them properly, involve them properly and lead them properly.
It is a matter of the culture and unless we understand that the people are the engine room of the business then we are really missing a trick.
I have said on many occasion that people want to know two things; how am I doing and where are we going? Making sure that they are involved and as far as possible devoting time to them certainly contributes to the “how am I doing?” question.
Involving people in developing the strategy of the business is a major step in ensuring that not only are the right people on the bus but they all want to go in the same direction.
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