Strategic Planning: Why Bother?

In a world with ever-increasing demands on personal time, it is hard bringing senior management together in a productive space. As for giving the “team” the space for considered, or even innovative thought and challenge……

By the time you get a strategy document prepared, something else significant has changed that has a material impact on the thinking. If you couple this with the detailed work developing the Annual Operating Plan (or budget); just what is the point?

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric represents a highly visible example of a charismatic CEO but he ensured operational performance targets were set and met. Part of his success was that he had the company own and work to both a strategy and its implementation. The latter owed everything to the former. No former; no foundation on which to build the latter.

Here are Jack Welch’s six rules for strategic planning:

1. Control your destiny, or someone else will.
2. Face reality as it is, not as you wish it were.
3. Be candid with everyone.
4. Don’t manage, lead.
5. Change before you have to.
6. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

These ‘rules’ set a scene. They point out the pitfalls of failing to build a shared strategy and they focus on the ‘why’ for the leadership. They also point towards a key point about successful implementation: leaders are only leaders if they have followers. In the world of work, most organisations ‘cheat’  to some extent by paying people to work there. However, paying someone to work in your organisation should not be confused with having a willing follower.

So, there needs to be an engagement mechanism to secure people’s commitment and desire to successfully implement strategy. The author suggests the following elements as essential in this regard:

7. Give hope to your people; share your vision; encourage input.

8. Live the Plan: review, celebrate success, adapt to be more successful, align resources consciously.

The proposition is that these two elements encourage ownership and keep the process live. This allows the organisation to view the process as fluid, lithe, adaptable. It reduces the risk of being caught off guard and engenders organisational awareness to look out for potential problems and anticipate responses accordingly.


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