Each new year brings a fresh onslaught of annual strategic planning. Most businesses have some adaptation of collecting data, making projections and making goals for the year ahead. No process is perfect, but there are ways to make the most of this valuable practice. Although strategic planning is necessary, it’s not often executed properly or effectively.
Should we do away with strategic planning all together? Absolutely not. When a necessary practice isn’t working properly, we don’t just chuck the whole idea out of the window. We adapt the process so that we can improve it. In our experience, the best way to improve the strategic planning process is to identify the problems and bring the right people together to for the solutions.
Start with the issues and create the right team to solve these issues.
Ask CEOs what they think strategic planning should involve and they will talk about anticipating big challenges and spotting important trends. At many companies, however, this noble purpose has taken a backseat to rigid, data-driven processes dominated by the production of budgets and financial forecasts. If the calendar-based process is to play a more valuable role in a company’s overall strategy efforts, it must complement budgeting with a focus on strategic issues. In our experience, the first liberating change managers can make to improve the quality of the planning process is to begin it by deliberately and thoughtfully identifying and discussing the strategic issues that will have the greatest impact on future business performance.
Instead of strategic planning solely based on data, we should be using the data we collect to come up with solutions to the issues we have. What are the issues and problems that need to be fixed? Bringing together the right people allows for positive interaction and influences from those who are the most knowledgeable about the problems in the company and the most capable of fixing them. This means that the people in the room cannot just be made up of strategic planners and corporate decision makers. The conversation has to be expanded to include those that will actually be carrying out the strategy.
You’ll have to decide how to best include team leaders in these discussions. Keep in mind that those actually executing the strategies on a daily basis will have the best insight into how these strategies may fail or succeed and what could be adjusted to fix this.
If you want your strategic planning to be worthwhile, you have to put time, effort and the right resources into it. You get what you pay for. You get back what you invest. The thoroughness that you put into strategic planning will be the thoroughness of the strategy that comes from it. What are your thoughts on improving your strategic planning process? Is it a waste of time or a valuable asset to your business? Comment below!