The business world is full of examples illustrating failed strategies and implementation tactics. Each specimen of failure presents innumerable lessons to be learned and not repeated. It sounds so simple when you say it fast, “Have a good strategy and a good plan to execute it.” Despite the seemingly simple principles involved, the same strategy-related mistakes continue to be made.
Time Is Of The Essence
Perhaps the primary factor involved is time. CEOs come and go much faster these days and have little patience to spend much time on the analysis behind strategy formulation or on the details of how to implement it. With the average tenure of a CEO being about two years, it is easy to sympathize with their desire to see change happen quickly. Regardless of the need to move swiftly, taking correct actions in such circumstances are key to a CEO’s survival. Even under fire, CEOs must plot a careful but effective course to improve performance and meet expectations. That requires a level-headed approach and cool demeanor.
For a CEO under pressure, strategic planning might be thought of as a long drawn out process that takes more time to achieve than they can afford. Unfortunately, it is the required course of action to improve organizational performance. The important point to remember is that any change to policy, process or tactics requires time to take effect. That is a given, so why not take the time to ensure that your actions will be the correct ones? If you know that you are about to be run down by a bus and needed to move out of the way quickly, having the information about which direction to jump is essential to survival. Jumping in the wrong direction constitutes action, but is not helpful if the bus still runs you over. Such is the case with strategic planning. No matter how rushed executives might feel to take immediate action, knowing the right direction to jump is still critical. When planning is done correctly, business leaders can take solace that they are doing the right things right, even if it took a bit more time up front to get there.
How Much Is Enough?
Given that time will always be of the essence, what kind of strategic planning is needed and how much is enough? At a minimum, the planning process must involve an evaluation of the impacts that the strategy will have on the business to determine if it will actually help accomplish the outcomes intended. There must also be an actual plan for implementation associated with the strategy. A holistic plan defines goals that support the strategy and addresses the operational tactics that will accomplish the goals.
Corporate strategy must align with culture and core values in order to be successfully accepted and enacted. Likewise, creating a strategic plan that works requires a serious understanding of organizational core competencies. Planning ensures that the fundamental knowledge, abilities, and expertise that the organization requires to accomplish its desired goals have been identified and incorporated into the execution tactics.
Strategic planning must address communication and change management. The organizational ranks cannot otherwise be expected to fall in line with a corporate strategy that they do not know about or understand.
Taking the time to plan for strategy and execution pays off in results. Strategic planning defines actions that further the mission of the organization with capacity to grow successfully. A thorough strategic planning process identifies potential growth markets that can be investment opportunities for the organization’s resources. Such markets can become the next generation of revenue sources and replace those that are becoming saturated, undergoing fundamental changes that pose risk to the business or may be experiencing decline.
Strategic planning also identifies the correct organizational priorities through structured analysis of initiatives and forces alignment of spending with those ordered priorities. It aligns spending to programs that further the execution of the organization’s strategy. More subtly though, strategic planning also relates to hiring decisions. Hiring practices must address needed capacity to support strategic programs by supplying the business with talent that is delivered at the right time and with the right skills.
Additionally, strategic planning yields the benefit of adding accountability into job performance and tying incentives to the completion of goal-related initiatives. Ultimately, strong strategic plans help strengthen culture with improved and channeled energy. Organizational performance indicators and metrics help provide the ability to control and manage, as they signal the need for evaluation and analysis early when corrections to implementation tactics can be made more easily with fewer cost implications.
The right way to speed up the strategic planning process is to have a solid foundation already in place upon which to build the plan. The wrong way to introduce speed in strategic planning is to skip it entirely or to rush through necessary steps and create a typical plan that fails to deliver its intended results, as is the case with 90% of all corporate strategic plans. It is truly a case where well begun is half done.