Strategic planning is a business tool that can help provide a product road map, segmentation strategies, competitive intelligence, market intelligence and a market approach for your organization to follow.
Part art and part science, strategic planning requires a knowledge of business, marketing and in today’s world, technology. Few people have a formal education that includes strategic planning, or any significant real-world experience.
It’s no wonder that strategic planning often results in less than spectacular results. Knowing what not to do helps you achieve strategic planning success. Here are seven potential problems to watch out for with your strategic planning process:
It’s an afterthought
A strategic plan is a critical planning tool that requires a significant amount of work and time to complete. It’s not an exam you cram for during the week before the test. Your senior sales and marketing executive and product mangers should be very involved in the process. Your senior staff should review status of the strategic planning process on a monthly basis and assure progress.
Lack of alignment
Your senior staff needs to determine overall high-level strategy and goals for the organization. Once this is determined, senior management needs to assure organizational alignment. Organizations achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency when all departments and employees are working together toward the same goals and result. Lack of organizational alignment is one of the top reasons companies do not achieve expected results and maximum profitability.
Planning in a vacuum
It’s important for your team to talk with all stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and industry analysts to get different perspectives. It’s also important to not assume you have all the answers. Resist the temptation to change data just because it supports a desired conclusion. (As human beings we are prone to this weakness) An objective perspective will provide for better results and a stronger strategic plan.
Lack of focus
You cannot be everything to everybody. Resources and time are finite, so you must focus on areas that will provide for the greatest return and probability of success. Take the time during the process to select and define those specific activities that would assure success for the organization. Twenty percent of your activities, provides for approximately 80% of your results. Focus on those 20% that provide the majority of the results.
Lack of accountability
I once was coaching a vice president of sales and marketing who did not want to take the responsibility for developing his company’s strategic plan. This was clearly a bad sign for the company and for the VP’s career. There has to be accountability for a strategic plan. Like any large project, there should be people assigned to certain tasks and completion dates agreed to. Regular monitoring and reporting is a key to successful development and deployment of a strategic plan.
Lack of strategy
A failure to develop a differentiation strategy and a sustainable competitive advantage might be the number one reason companies go down the business “death spiral.” During the strategic planning process it is essential to consider and define these key aspects of what you offer the marketplace. Understand succinctly where and how your organization provides value and make this part of your strategy.
Failure to review
It is shocking to me the number of organizations that do not look back and review the success of past strategic plans. You must review your past performance. You should seek to have a team perform a “devil’s advocate” review of your strategic plan before the train leaves the station. If you don’t review the plan and the planning process, and importantly the results, how can you improve the process?
Developing an effective strategic planning process does not have to be daunting. These points will help you improve and optimize your process and ultimately your long-term results.
If you don’t have the experience on your team to develop, or optimize the process, obtain help from the outside. When done properly, strategic planning can have an extremely positive impact on your organizations morale, success and financial results. The sooner you start, the sooner your organization can reap the rewards of a strong strategic planning process.