5 Steps for Avoiding the Insanity of Strategic Planning

As I work with organizations on strategic planning I continue to see some common roadblocks that challenge their ability to put their plans into action. There’s nothing entirely shocking about these roadblocks – in fact, when conducting research for my book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Strategic Planning, I talked with numerous people who brought up the same issues. Yet, despite our general awareness of what we need to do, and what we shouldn’t do, when it comes to strategic planning, we seem to often make the same mistakes over and over again.

You’ve probably heard Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Following are 5 things you can do to avoid the risk of insanity in your strategic planning efforts.

  1. Tie your strategic planning efforts to the way you run your business; don’t make planning a separate task. When strategic planning is embedded into the way you get your work done it drives results. When it’s considered “something extra” it’s generally pushed to the side because staff feel they “don’t have time because we have real work to do.” That’s the irony. Their “real work” should be the same as the work generated through your strategic planning efforts.
  2. Involve everyone in strategic planning. Effective planning isn’t something that’s done by senior leaders and then “dumped on” the masses to “make it happen.” Those who will be doing the work must be involved at some level in the planning effort. That doesn’t mean your entire staff needs to be part of the team that drives the planning effort, but they do need to be engaged at some point in the process.
  3. Establish clear accountabilities. When everyone is accountable, no one is accountable. Where does the buck stop? Assigning a team, a department or even a duo responsibility for an outcome often results in no one taking responsibility. Make it clear who will be held accountable for achieving desired results.
  4. Measure, monitor and report. Having a plan is just the starting point. Working the plan is what makes things happen. And that means putting in place the means to measure, monitor and report on progress. Again, when planning is embedded into the way you run your organization this becomes a natural step as individuals, departments and divisions are called upon to report on how their efforts are ultimately driving the success of the plan–and the organization.
  5. Celebrate success. It’s hard work to develop and implement successful planning efforts. While forward movement is important, it’s also important to take a look back and to take the time to recognize, celebrate and reward success.

These are not simple things to do. In fact, successful strategic planning is very hard work. But organizations that embed planning into every aspect of their business and develop a rigor around executing their plan achieve measurable results. Yes, it takes time and effort, but in the end the results will be worth it.

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