The “Big Rocks” of Effective Strategic Plan Implementation

Strategic planning is one of those activities that is often looked upon with either fear or disdain. Why? Because all too often business professionals who have been engaged in what can be a very long and arduous process are disheartened when the plan never really seems to reach fruition. It becomes a document based on an exercise that can take an inordinate amount of time (but doesn’t have to…).
In our experience working with a number of different organizations on strategic planning efforts, and conducting research on strategic planning when writing “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Strategic Planning,” there are a number of reasons that even the most carefully created plans fail to be implemented as planned, let alone serve to achieve the desired results.

This is what we see as the “big rocks” that cause even the best-laid plans to go awry:
  • Lack of alignment with the actual work of the organization. A strategic plan should not be, but often is, separate from the actual work of the organization. Strategic plan elements are not “add-ons,” but should outline what the organization has to do to achieve its goals/objectives in alignment with its mission/vision/values.
  • Lack of involvement/communication with key constituents. Too often strategic plans are developed by small groups behind closed doors with little input from staff, customers/clients, and other key constituents. If you rely on others to achieve your plan’s goals (and who doesn’t?), you must involve all of those others in some way to ensure execution. We’ve actually worked with companies who would not share their strategic plan with their staff members out of concerns about somehow revealing “trade secrets” to competitors. The problem is, how do you expect your employees to help you achieve your goals/objectives if you don’t bring them in on the plan?
  • Failure to “work the plan.” As we work with clients, one of the “best practices” we’ve implemented is identifying at the outset of the planning process how the plan will be implemented: how often will it be reviewed, how it will be tied into other organizational review processes (e.g. performance review, budgeting), etc.

A strategic plan should be a living document, not a document that sits on a shelf, computer drive, or in the cloud somewhere. It is not a static document. We generally recommend a monthly review comprised of the individuals who are ultimately charged with achieving the various plan strategies and monitoring metrics associated with those strategies. As results are reviewed, the group can and should make adjustments to the plan, which might include raising/lowering targets or adding/removing strategies/tactics. The environment (internal and external) is constantly changing–your plan should be changing too.

Strategic planning can work–and, it doesn’t have to take months and months of meetings. While an initial plan can take extra time because of the need, often, to gather internal and external inputs and, perhaps, to conduct primary research, subsequent cycles of planning can be easily streamlined.

We’re passionate about planning and committed to instilling that same passion in others as we work with them to develop and implement plans that actually generate results.

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