Strategic plans are great; if you implement them… Strategic Planning, Part II

by Edward Henkler on April 4, 2013

Establishing a clear Vision and Mission, complemented by an aligned strategic plan is an important step for any organization.  The degree of rigor and complexity of the plan will vary considerably with the size and stage of your organization but a guiding “North Star” is essential.  It keeps us focused on a destination and provides a litmus test against which intermediate objectives and initiatives may be judged.  Equally important, it helps measure short term progress, although annual plans and shorter term objectives are more critical for that aspect.

In my previous post, I told a tale of an organization which created an outstanding Strategic Plan…but didn’t implement it.  To continue that story, 6 years after the first plan was created, we conducted another Strategic Planning effort.  The outcome was remarkably similar to the earlier effort and, once again, it wasn’t implemented.  I wish this was a unique example but I’ve read two articles recently suggesting that it is typical and 70% keeps arising.  Sounds like a winning percentage except for the context:

  • 70% of major change initiatives fail (these are often an element of a strategic plan)
  • 70% of employees in an Australian study couldn’t identify their company’s strategic plan from a randomized set of 6 strategic plans

I have not selected these two statistics randomly.  Many initiatives fail because the leadership never engages the employees and may not even have attempted to find out what their customers want.  It takes time to establish a robust communication approach and the associated trust from your employees.  It starts by engaging all stakeholders from the outset.  Assuming your employees are already working at capacity, there is value in engaging an outside consulting group but that doesn’t mean that employees at all levels shouldn’t still be involved.  They need to provide initial input, and then have touch points throughout the process so they remain engaged and can also offer course corrections.  With ongoing involvement, they’ll be ready and committed to implementing the plans when the consultants depart.

Do you have a strategic plan?  Is it a living document, on life support, or…are you not even sure where it is???

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