Strategic Planning – An exercise or a process

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Strategic PlanningMany companies take the time to take their leadership team and/or a subset of such, to an offsite and between social activities, time away as a team from the office and actual meetings, they end up producing a “White Binder”.  This so-called white binder becomes the strategic plan for the next year.


Having been apart of this many a time, whether internally or with clients, it is always interesting as to what happens to that white binder, that is full of “glorious” strategies from an intense strategic planning session; who holds it; what do they do with it and more importantly the “strategies” inside of the binder; and even more important what does THE COMPANY do with this all these strategies?


Strategic planning, according to HBR and Wikipedia:


“Strategic planning is an organization‘s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. In order to determine the direction of the organization, it is necessary to understand its current position and the possible avenues through which it can pursue a particular course of action.  Generally, strategic planning deals with at least one of three key questions:[1]

  1.     “What do we do?”
  2.     “For whom do we do it?”
  3.     “How do we excel?”

In many organizations, this is viewed as a process for determining where an organization is going over the next year…”


So then, is strategic planning an exercise or process and which should it be?  If you answered that it is an exercise, you are correct, as that is how most businesses facilitate it.  If you answered it is a process, then you too are right, as it something that should be done continuously and throughout the organization.  Yet if you answered that it is both, then you have hit the trifecta and well on your way to measuring and managing your business via the on-going use of your strategic plans!  It is virtually impossible to have a strategic plan that does nothing more than getting the leadership team to an offsite and then produce a “mother load” of paper that is only to reside inside a white binder and never be used to truly integrate all aspects of your business!


Again, HRB and Mintzberg express Strategic Planning in terms of being impeded due to exactly what we just said:


“And What is the Strategic Plan?


If strategy is used too broadly and with little precision, the embrace of planning often goes in the opposite direction, resulting in a mechanical document that belies its own intent.


Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Henry Mintzberg observes:


Planning’s failure to transcend the categories explains why it has discouraged serious organizational change. This failure is why formal planning has promoted strategies that are extrapolated from the past or copied from others. Strategic planning has not only never amounted to strategic thinking but has, in fact, often impeded it.”


If Strategic Planning is not a PROCESS and used to MEASURE and MANAGE your business by everyone, then you are only doing an exercise.  If in fact you take it to the level of a process, well then you are much more likely to effectively involve and thus evolve your business.  Don’t allow your strategic planning to be only an exercise and white binder!


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