strategic planning mistakes

Many organizations don’t develop a strategic plan and those that do rarely implement it effectively. In his article The Big Lie of Strategic Planning, Roger L. Martin states,

“All executives know that strategy is important. But almost all also find it scary, because it forces them to confront a future they can only guess at. Worse, actually choosing a strategy entails making decisions that explicitly cut off possibilities and options. An executive may well fear that getting those decisions wrong will wreck his or her career.” – Roger L. Martin

In my experience, there are 5 common strategic planning mistakes that many executives make:

  1. Not including the entire team in the planning process
  2. Not driving strategic planning to the operational level
  3. Not starting with a clean slate
  4. Not dreaming big enough
  5. Not rewarding performance according to the impact it has on the plan

There are key considerations to overcome each of these common mistakes. We’ll break them down in this article.

Not including the entire team in the strategic planning process.

People are the most supportive of the plans they help create, but most organizations leave high-level thinking to high-level staff, bringing the rest of the team in later. It is impossible for one individual or even a small group of leaders to see every challenge and opportunity. To cover as many bases as possible, involve the entire team in the planning. You’ll get an abundance of opinions and everyone can take on a real sense of pride and ownership.

Not driving strategic planning to the operational level.

Some organizations develop their strategic plan and are satisfied once the entire thing has been written and formally published. Then, the strategy comes to a screeching halt. Regardless of how great the strategic plan is, if it doesn’t filter all the way down, the planning won’t have an impact. Strategic planning is the first step. Operational planning is the next step.

Not starting with a clean slate.

Most teams start their strategic planning based on what they think is currently possible. Instead, the organization ends up with a plan that will accomplish something short of what can be possible in the future. Make sure at least one of your planning sessions challenges the team to work from scratch. Meanwhile, visualize what you could accomplish far into the future.

Not dreaming big enough.

Most organizations move along a predictable path. Consequently, they never experience any kind of dramatic growth or change because they never dream big enough. Big dreaming results in big ideas. Big ideas result in big changes that will result in big accomplishments. Generate radical streams of innovative ideas during your planning session.

Not rewarding performance according to impact on the strategic plan.

The strategic plan has been completed down to the operational level. Therefore, all team members not only know what they need to do, but they know how it needs to get done. But, someone on the team does a stellar job and doesn’t get recognized. Guess what will happen when you have your next strategic planning effort? Don’t be surprised if morale is low or if that team member calls out sick. To avoid this, make sure a reward is tied to a contribution of the strategic plan. Manage performance according to what was planned.

To avoid the 5 most common strategic planning mistakes:

  • Get as many team members as possible involved in the strategic planning process;
  • Keep planning until each team player knows exactly how they can contribute to the plan;
  • Make sure at least one of your planning sessions gets the team working from scratch;
  • During your strategic planning, generate radical streams of innovative ideas;
  • Manage performance and tie reward to contribution of the strategic plan.

These tips and others are presented in an ENPM Strategic Leadership Development (ENPM SLD) presentation that assists organizations in going beyond managing day-to-day operations. Hire Art to hear him speak live or call to learn about executive coaching.

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Art Jackson, Professional Speaker, Executive Coach

Art Jackson

Art Jackson is a professional speaker and executive coach. He is a recognized expert in the areas of leadership, performance improvement and interpersonal skills.

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