Friday, February 29, 2008

Ten Myths About Strategic Planning

The impetus and some of the content for this article came from an article in Mike Johnson's sales newsletter (Mike runs Sales Solutions) by Rick Seaman of Strategy Implementation.

CEOs, owners and senior executives appear to believe some or even all of the following myths about strategic planning and implementation. As with any myth, if one follows it, the results can be not just harmful but potentially disastrous. Let me provide a perspective based on our work with many different companies from the very large Fortune 500 top companies such as Procter & Gamble and Clorox to even the very small sole proprietor.

Myth #1A and 1B: We don’t need a strategic plan! We have one but it isn’t written down.
This is like embarking on a trip without a map. Or just having a vague idea of how to get where you are going beyond the immediate next few steps. 63% of companies do not have a written business plan. In fact, many companies don’t even have the vision and goals crystallized. They are just out there in the distant “fog”. Every organization needs some form of plan to set the direction and guide its actions particularly during turbulent market conditions. Otherwise, it will simply respond to events outside the firm and be controlled by them. If you don’t have it written down the day to day pressures almost guarantee that the company will meander and drift and never reach the desired destination.

Myth #2: The plan is a binder on a shelf and length means strength.
Documentation is necessary but the real benefit of a good plan is the mental framework for problem solving that it provides to the executive team and then cascaded down to all of the employees. A cumbersome lengthy document often inhibits use and the plan stays on the shelf. Additionally, there is a tendency to add many, many projects to fill the pages. This just defocuses the organization and spreads scarce resources thinly. At Maver Management Group we use a one page format. Executives and employees can refer to it frequently and monitor simple measures to stay on track.

Myth #3 Once the plan is put to paper the work is done and we can leave it for another year.
Wrong!! A plan is only good if it is followed and updated regularly to track progress, reassess the competitive climate and modify the tactics accordingly. If you have a binder on your shelf, it will only be of service as a dust catcher. It has to be in your hands, used and stimulating your thinking.

Myth #4: Strategic planning can only be done at a resort.
You should be out of the office where there are no distractions from the daily firefighting, the phone calls and of course the e-mails. All you need for a productive process is a meeting room at a local hotel or conference center. Strategic planning is serious and shouldn’t be equated with a vacation. Everyone can play golf on their own time. Team building is important but realistically how much of that is really done on the course itself.

Myth #5: It interferes with our real jobs.
The time set aside for the thinking part of your job will unquestionably take away time from the mundane responses to e-mails and voice mails and possibly from some of the firefighting too. Strategic planning is arguably the most important part of your job because it can determine the effectiveness of all the rest of your efforts. However, it is often viewed as important but not urgent and therefore not done. The investment in it can have a dramatic effect not only on the business results but also on the amount of truly productive time in your workday. This IS your job!!

Myth #6: We can do it without any help.
Unless your core competency is strategic planning and you spend a lot of time honing the process, you need to get an expert. It is extremely difficult to both participate in and facilitate the same meeting. There is an almost irresistible urge to problem solve on detailed issues and therefore lose track of the big picture. Executives need to focus on the thinking so the plan gets the benefit of the best brainpower.

Myth #7: Our industry is different. It changes too fast to allow for a plan.
Let me assure you that no matter in what industry you compete, having a plan is a necessity. Without exception, all of the clients we have had across a broad range of industries have benefited from the critical thinking and the focused direction that the plan creates. Exploring alternative futures, and the actions needed under those conditions, improves your ability to respond to whatever happens and in fact to get out in front.

Myth #8: We did the plan and we will get to the metrics later.
What gets measured gets done. The dashboard in your car provides vital information even if you don’t understand what goes on under the hood. We all need to have “gas gauges” for all of the key elements so that we can measure our progress and adjust our plans and spending accordingly.

Myth #9: If the CEO says it, it will happen.
Top down management is seen in many companies. However, even in these companies the power of the combined executive team results in a better plan. Importantly, their buy-in helps the plan be understood down into the organization and therefore executed much more effectively. Actual execution of any plan only takes place when employees direct their efforts and change their behavior to comply with the requirements of the plan.

Myth #10: The plan is too confidential to be shared with regular employees.
Even the best strategic plan will never produce the desired results if the people who have to implement it don’t know what it is. Clearly, all of the elements are not shared with all of the employees. But it is important to have the corporate plan cascaded down so that each employee knows where they fit in making the plan work. They need to have enough information to make wise choices in their daily routine even if they are not strategic.

Did you believe these myths?

Probably not. However, contact us if we can help you get to where you want to go with your business or personal goals.


John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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1 comment:

Lewis Green said...


This is the one I love: "Once the plan is put to paper the work is done and we can leave it for another year." It is only after the plan is written and the goals are shared with everyone (and everyone knows they will be held accountable for achieving those goals) that the work begins. Thanks for sharing, John.