A View from Blue Grotto

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Does Your Organization Need a Strategic Planning Overhaul?

What do you think of when you hear the term ‘strategic planning?’ Does dread fill your mind? Does the term conjure up images of middle managers stuck in a window-less room, droning on about SWOT analysis, goals and tactics, and ultimately a document that would collect dust for the next three years until it was time to go through strategic planning, again.

What if strategic planning could result in tools that helped you to develop a formula for continual evaluation and course correction if necessary, and, more importantly, develop an organizational capacity to replicate success and address uncertainty? You’d say “sign me up!” Right?

As I led a client’s leadership team through strategic planning this past fall, I decided to work toward the outcome of developing that formula for decision-making informed by their strategy. What I really wanted was for them to actually use the strategic direction once they had it fleshed out. No reams of paper necessary, I expected to produce a single sheet that influenced how they made tactical decisions - a simple game plan that helped them to commit to what their team would or would not focus on in the coming months.

I forewarned the team about my intent to refrain from taking the easy way out - establishing a series of goals they would be pretty sure at which they could succeed, along with a tactic-heavy work plan. And, instead, I would be asking them to consider how they would leverage their strategy to create a cultural advantage and replicate success. Hoping the team would be receptive to this change in approach, I assigned some relatively light reading as homework.

Dana O’Donovan and Noah Rimland Flower of the Monitor Institute tackled the topic for Stanford Social Innovation Review with The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy. In today’s fast-changing world, why freeze your strategic thinking in a five-year plan? They advocated for developing a plan that is adaptive and simple.

For Harvard Business Review’s blog, Roger Martin instructed very simply that there are Five Questions to Build a Strategy, treating strategy-making as developing a set of answers to five interlinked questions.

One simple takeaway: debating tactics that may or may not be relevant in even just a few short weeks feels like a waste of time. Prioritizing what your team wants to focus on as an organization for the next twelve months and identifying the best practices you can rely on to guide the decisions made by everyone from the front line customer service to the corner offices makes perfect sense.

Email me with your own anecdote about how strategic direction makes a difference in your day-to-day work. Or, with resources you found helpful in making the case for more effective strategic planning.

Links to the articles: http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/the_strategic_plan_is_dead._long_live_strategy
Stanford Social Innovation Review Nonprofit Management The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy. In today’s fast-changing world, why freeze your strategic thinking in a five-year plan?
By Dana O’Donovan & Noah Rimland Flower

Harvard Business Review Five Questions to Build a Strategy By Roger Martin

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.