The organization lacks a) strategic or operational planning processes, b) know-how to get it done, or c) both. Focus is on the here and now…there is no long term outlook.
Why should organizations use a strategic planning process?
Strategic planning is a valuable process for any organization.
However, the reasons why to do it, the intensity of the process and the appropriate frequency vary depending upon the company’s stage of development, the external environment and the specific needs. Is the company:
- a start up?
- an emerging growth business?
- an established, mature business operating in a stable industry (are there any of those anymore?)
- in trouble (aka ‘challenged’)?
Depending on the stage of business, here are some reasons (please suggest more) why good planning can help:
- Set a new direction (for a startup). Don’t overwork the process…get going
- Course correction for an emerging growth business (e.g. see above…)
- Answer specific questions sought by top management about the current business
- Update/ratify a plan already in use at the company
- Resolve shareholder issues that may be impacting the company’s future direction
- Unravel a complicated, muddled business model
- Assess short and long-term strategic choices available to the company (e.g. capital needs, potential liquidity events, etc.)
- Gain alignment and a shared understanding on “who are we (as a company) and where do we need to go” (i.e. sort through the current issues/opportunities, establish a future direction)
- Emphasize the ‘how’: drive formulation of the specific operating plans and goals to successfully execute the go-forward plan
- Prepare for a major change in the company (i.e. acquisition, new product line, divestiture, new markets)
- Make critical choices about scarce resources, personnel, scope of business
- React to changing customer needs and competition
- Save the company
Why Don’t Leadership Teams Plan?
There are countless books, articles, and volumes of research in the public domain about strategic planning. If there is so much of this ‘stuff’ out there and available, why do leadership teams often struggle with completing a planning process?
Here is the ‘No Planning Need Happen’ list…some of the typical CEO reasons I’ve heard:
- We’re too busy. We don’t have time for it.
- Things are ok; we don’t need a formal process.
- Come on…how can we plan out (X) years (pick a number) if we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow?
- I’ve heard too many stories about companies that waste time on a strategic planning process and the fancy report just sits on a bookshelf.
- Strategic planning is just a theoretical, academic exercise. All that stuff is crap.
- I have a plan! Everyone in the company knows where we are headed.
- We have a plan – we put together a budget each year.
- The honest answer (rare): We don’t know how to do it.
Create A Big “TO DO’ List
In addition to broader strategic planning, I also look to see if there is an ‘operational plan’ – a big TO DO list for the year that links to the financial plan.
- What are the major initiatives?
- Who owns each one of them?
- When are these action plans expected to be completed?
- How will the progress on execution be measured?