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Want To Avoid Strategic Plan Failures? Combine Thinking, Planning, Doing


Last week, I wrote a post titled: Ten Common Reasons Strategic Plans Fail.  In it, I offered 10 reasons most strategic plans aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on or the drive space they occupy in your computer.  Because the list of reasons is far from complete, it wouldn’t be very helpful to provide another list of tactical approaches for addressing the most common problems.  Instead, let’s think about strategic plans in a manner that’s, dare I say, strategic.

So how is it done now?  Well in most organizations I’ve come across, the C-Suite handles the “thinking and planning” and then tries to convince the rest of the organization that what they’ve come up with is worth “doing” – leaving much of the “doing” part up to the rank and file employees.   Over time, the “thinking and planning” become further divorced from the “doing,” to the point where irreconcilable differences result in the dissolution of the effort.   It’s an arranged marriage with all the accompanying chances for success.

With this in mind, it stands to reason that a viable solution to the larger problem of strategic plan failure is alarmingly simple: Involve the entire team in the strategic thinking, strategic planning, and strategic doing.   Single team – single process.  Divide either and you’re left picking up the pieces of a failed plan.

If it requires an entire team to meet a strategic goal, then why wouldn’t leaders want to involve everyone on the team (with all their perspectives and talents) in the entire process?  Is it too time consuming?  Too complicated?  Is it because since most of the employees missed the two-day strategic planning workshop at the Greenbriar last summer they’ll be out of their depth?  None of it’s true.  (Ok, they may have missed the Greenbriar weekend, but they won’t be out of their depth).

Getting everyone involved in all three phases of the process will take longer than the typical weekend retreat.  No doubt about that, but if you take time to engage all your people in the thinking, planning and doing, then you’ll go a long way toward avoiding the most common problems I wrote about last week, including:

  • Having to announce a grand plan to your staff in that hope they’ll embrace it;
  • Implementing a plan that would run counter to your organization’s culture or talents;
  • Being unrealistic about what your entire team is prepared to do to achieve the goal;
  • A plan being construed as strictly the leadership’s plan;
  • Ineffective milestones and rewards – and the list goes on!

Now how you bring everyone into the strategic planning process will depend on your organization’s culture, physical limitations, and willingness of the leadership team to truly engage everyone.  For whatever additional effort or cost you incur upfront, all I can say is that it will pale in comparison to what another “strategic plan gone bad” will cost you down the road.

For leaders who are sincere about inviting everyone into the process (sincere being the operative word), you’ll not only increase your chances of achieving your goals, but your organization will be all the richer for it.  It’s hard to imagine an initiative that would do more to unite an organization or put it in a better position to compete on the global stage.  Give it a try next time!

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