It's time to rethink strategic planning as a more generative, productive, and inclusive process.
Reporting on its 2023 Annual Global CEO Survey, PWC noted that nearly forty per cent of CEOs think their company will no longer be economically viable a decade from now, if it continues on its current path.
If forty per cent (FORTY!!) of CEOs don’t think their organisation will exist in ten years’ time, then strategy is in urgent need of a reformation. It's not enough to optimise the present. You need to imagine the future and work backwards.
In fact, think back to your last strategic planning exercise...
You were probably excited about the clarity and focus it would provide. Yet what were you left with after a long and hard process? A dust-collecting document? Business-as-usual?
This all-too-common pattern needs a refresh. Below, we detail common traps we've witnessed and remedies we've found effective in overcoming them:
|Trap 01: Lacking a focused purpose |
Purpose, at its best, is a tool that focuses decision making. But, overly broad purpose statements hinder many organizations from deciding where to direct resources, leaving teams unclear on what to prioritize.
|Remedy 01: Refine your purpose before embarking on strategic planning|
A good strategy tells you what not to do. Ask yourself: Do these programmes/products/initiatives help us fulfill our purpose?” Laddering strategy from purpose not only inspires your people, but also provides a clear rationale for every decision made.
|Trap 02: Planning with a “Big Reveal”|
Tasked with creating direction for your organization, you and your leadership team tackle strategic planning behind-the-scenes, unveiling the plan later. It makes sense: you want to keep the process focused and spare your team’s time. But when you disconnect the people who develop strategy from the people who execute it, you increase the chances that your plan won’t succeed.
|Remedy 02: Enlist high performers to co-create your plan|
The fastest way to generate confidence in the strategy: build it alongside those who will need to execute it. Engaging a group of high performers at every level not only drives buy-in, but also grounds your strategy in reality. Nobody knows more about the dependencies, resource constraints, and cultural obstacles of executing strategy than those who implement it daily.
|Trap 03: Setting it and forgetting it|
Too often, strategic planning is mistaken for an event, and not an ongoing practice. This approach only welcomes disappointment and impedes follow-through. 61% of senior executives say their firms struggle to connect the dots between strategy and implementation. This is no surprise considering 85% of leadership teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy.
|Remedy 03 : Transform strategic planning into an ongoing practice|
Don’t stop at a plan. We work with clients to translate their plan into decision-making tools, playbooks and roadmaps, helping teams use the new strategic priorities to guide everyday prioritization. These tools make strategic thinking into a habit, rather than a siloed and time-bound activity.
|Trap 04: Defaulting to a traditional planning process that doesn’t reflect the ways your team works|
Well-worn tools like SWOT analyses and the Balanced Scorecards have clear value. But, deploying a traditional strategy process may lead people within your organization to struggle unnecessarily with the process, or outright reject the outcomes if the process feels foreign or inauthentic to their way of working.
|Remedy 04: Plan the way you work|
If you're a product organization, plan as though you're shipping a product. Collect requirements, build a prototype, test it, and iterate. If you're an arts organization, assemble the right makers, brainstorm and critique ideas, and sketch before creating final work. Strategic plans that reflect an organization's unique culture and offering are far likelier to be embraced and adopted, rather than feeling like an abstract and siloed effort.
All strategy is revolution. The rest is just tactics.
- Prof. Lawrence Freedman, military historian
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