Okay, we have seen this before. Business executives hustle off for a strategic planning retreat with their briefing binders in hand and the burning desire to come out of a planning session armed with a revitalized and innovative business direction for the company.
Didn’t this happen last year?
Remember the sacred strategy document that was produced. This plan espoused the direction needed to unlock the company’s future advantages and represent the flint for change, prosperity and success. Nirvana at last!
But sadly the swirl of enthusiasm drops off rapidly after the days following the retreat and the many weeks after the strategic plan is written.
So why do organizations repeat the same strategic planning processes year after year believing they are loyally continuing a traditional planning cycle that will lead the company to the Promised Land?
Let’s explore five myths of strategy development that need to be crushed to make way for a completely fresh approach to strategy development and implementation.
Myth 1: The more time spent on strategic planning the more successful the business
There is absolutely no correlation between the length of time spent in strategic planning and the beneficial outcomes to a business. In fact, the more time spent on strategic planning the more management will get caught up and it becomes the focus. This promotes planning paralysis and any benefits which could be accrued are eventually lost as momentum declines.
Myth 2: Diligently analyzing every aspect of the company’s market
Yes it is hard to argue that knowing the market is a good thing, however over analyzing and creating piles of data files or studies can lead to planning paralysis that will stymy strategy development. Furthermore, some analyses can be backward rather than forward focussed causing a loss of perspective on future outlooks about where the company should be directed.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power but too much knowledge can turn any circumstance into a sea of endless options about which confusion and procrastination reins.
Myth 3: A solid, good strategy is the key
A well-conceived strategy can be blindsided. It is difficult to predict changes in the marketplace as most strategic planning tends to use past information to predict future states. A good strategy has to be flexible enough to roll with the dynamics of changing external and internal environments.
Strategic plans, once developed, represent perspectives made from the contextual view at a single point in time. The circumstances in the next timeframe can render the plan obsolete.
In addition, a great strategy cannot come alive without good solid leadership and this leadership has to come from all parts of the organization. Mobilizing a leadership culture around plan implementation is a critical element.
Myth 4: Strategic thinkers are best at strategy development
The belief that strategic thinking is the privilege of only a few individuals in an organization promotes an exclusionary point of view. It represents an exclusive club mentality where only the elite are recognized as the gifted ones who have the intelligence to create the future direction of the company.
There is also a viewpoint that to engage a broader group in the strategic planning process will slow it down. The belief is that by relegating strategic planning to an activity focussed more on consensus building is counterproductive when the view is taken that a smaller team can make decisions faster. Is faster better? Sometimes, but not always.
Myth 5: Good communication is the panacea for effective strategy implementation
Most often communicating the company’s strategic plan resembles a prophet coming down from the mountain top and issuing an edict. Although words like “cascading” or “socializing” the strategic direction with employees is often used, the approach resembles a one way water fall of information.
Employees of the organization are given very little by way of understanding the reasons why the strategic direction was established - so context is invariably missing. And they no doubt even secretly harbor resentments about how the edict is being delivered to them. Resistance becomes a product of a toxic culture.
There is not enough in the communication plan to ensure employees have a complete understanding of where they fit in, how the strategic plan will be implemented and how it will impact their day to day activities and challenges. It comes across as a strategic plan in a strait jacket.
So with these myths identified our next blog will provide a fresh approach to strategic planning and implementation to show how these myths can be vanquished.