Recently I came across a great article on how to make strategic planning effective. Gary Harpst of Six Disciplines offers valuable advice on what strategic planning is, what it is not, and how to make it a useful tool for the guidance of your organization.
A Strategic Plan Must Define...
Strategy (What to Do)!
This is challenging to do well, but it's not rocket science - just define what you want your organization to do, and how you want it to react to new developments.
Gary's article takes a look at, and debunks, many erroneous beliefs about strategic plans. Most of these beliefs center on the idea that strategic planning is something sacred, mysterious, ivory tower-ish, and apart from operations.
A good strategic plan is exactly the opposite of all those things. It must define what you want operations to do. It should be visible and used as constant reference by anyone in your organization who makes decisions of any kind.
- The plan probably will be developed in a setting apart from operations.
- It usually should be made with the guidance of a coach, coordinator, or other outsider who can see things from a "30,000 foot view".
These arrangements attempt to ensure that the planning is done with as little distraction as possible from day-to-day "fire extinguishing". These daily details can cause people to focus on the next five minutes, rather than the next five months or five years.
Strategic planning is a process more than an event. The initial development of the plan must provide a simple means of regular revision. Things change...in markets, in technical developments, as effects of weather or other impossible-to-know factors. The plan should include contingencies for changes in those factors as much as possible.
The plan should take you from NOW forward, and NOW is likely to be different tomorrow, or next week, from today.
When one of those changes occurs, it's likely a part of the plan will need revision.
Your strategic plan should guide your company along your desired path for it. Any high-sounding rhetoric that gets filed away out of view of the people who do the company's work, or that does something other than guide your organization, is
not a strategic plan.
If there's not a dog-eared copy of the strategic plan on every manager's desk, you should probably consider development of a new and different plan that offers the guidance your company needs.
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