Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists


Why most Strategic Plans are little more than wish-lists

Wednesday 22 April 2015

In fact I'll go one step further and say that many Strategic Plans are DELIBERATE methods for NOT Progressing. In far too many organisations, the process of Strategic Planning is about compliance to a process of 'having a plan' and typically it has nothing to do with achievement of the outcomes listed in the Strategic Plan. They are at best a wishlist of hoped for outcomes. More often however they are used to hide a major lack of accountability and progress

Now I say this having reviewed hundreds of organisational Strategic Plans from multinational entities, Federal and State Government agencies, owner run businesses and not for profit organisations. I make the claim based on working with and training over three hundred different entities in Strategic Planning workshops, Board facilitation of strategy development, and delivering Strategy sessions to senior management groups.

And here is how it works for the 'wish-list' approach: The planning is mandated by an external entity (compliance requirement); the format is typically pro-forma fill in the blanks; the content is based mostly on a continuation of last year; and the information around available resources is scant. In this light, the entity will put together something that looks a lot like the last Strategic Plan, and fill it with high end statements about hopes for the future. This is the 'we do it because we have to do it' approach.

And lacking in a clear understanding of resources and capabilities, it will fail.

Other organisations are far more structured. In these organisations the purpose of a Strategic Plan is to distract or misdirect the workforce, management team or stakeholders from the real task at hand - to do whatever appeals to certain parts of the organisation regardless of potential. These Strategic Plans normally rely on a Strategic Planning team or Unit that asks division to respond to key planning criteria. But no single unit will understand what other units are doing, want to do or would like to do. No other unit will understand or be part of a shared outcome. And no single division will be held accountable to the Strategic Plan outcomes. This is the 'more of the same, ask no questions' approach.

And lacking in shared vision and stuck in silos, it will fail

The implications should not be downplayed - if you make a statement of intention in any form, a failure to act or initiate action towards that intention will nag away at you both consciously and unconscously. It will become a distraction; it will eat away at your focus; it will remind you at all sorts of unusual times. It'll be the rust eating away at your foundations.

And yet the solution is surprisingly simple - DO! But to Do! well you need accountability to intentions and you need to monitor progress weekly, not quarterly. You need to be able to articulate your Off-Track and ON-Track signals of progress IN ADVANCE. And that requires you to think about where you are headed, why and what might emerge along the way.

Improved Monitoring and Accountability leads to one stunning outcome - you can Often Do Less, yet Achieve more

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