Truth be told, I have been a classic strategic planner for over 20 years.
I’ve held senior level executive positions in numerous corporate settings with responsibility for facilitating and writing “Strategic Plans"in collaboration with leadership teams and Boards. I’ve helped numerous small businesses and nonprofits with their strategic planning processes. And people have been happy with my work.
I guess I’m good at it.
And I’ve learned a lot.
So, with all this experience why would I advocate for doing away with classic strategic planning. I’ve made a good living practicing this discipline.
First, I’m a big champion for taking time to pause every year and check in with other leaders and get honest about where the organization is today, and where it is going. The good, the bad and the ugly. I’m also a fan of using data and analytics, what we call internal and external assessments, to inform the discussion. This just makes just good sense. However, I don’t like that it is generally an annual event primarily just with leaders.
I also have difficulty with the output of Strategic Planning. What often emerges is a plan that looks slick and beautiful on a shelf as executives pat themselves on the back believing they have done their due diligence as leaders. The problem is that these become static documents., Even though as a facilitator, I always emphasize that the plan needs to be dynamic, people get wed to the plan.
Yes, we want strategic planning to provide direction. We want the plan to reflect prioritization of efforts. We want the plan to provide focus and clarity. Traditional strategic planning delivers on this promise, but for just a brief window of time.
Today the world moves too quickly to stay locked into a single plan even when we commit to revisiting it quarterly. From the outset, the plan needs to be nimble and to accommodate change. It needs to be inspiring and motivating to a workforce that consists of more and more Millennials, and multicultural values. It needs to be an engagement process, a continuous dialog about being responsive to customers, employees, partners. It needs to be MORE CREATIVE.
Enter “Strategic Visioning.”A process, a discipline of embedding strategic thinking into the DNA of all employees.
It is a process that is more continuous and ongoing, and often led by middle managers and their staff -- those closest to the customer. Sure it helps to get 4-6 strategic directions emerging from a session with top leaders. But this is only a framework, passed on to the rest of the company for a reality check and creation and actualization of tactics.
Fact is, this process creates more ownership and accountability for the strategic vision among all employees.
And innovation ensues.
I advocate for convening “think tank” sessions with top leadership to determine strategic directions, which are forwarded on to mid-level managers for flushing out opportunities around the what, how and when.
I advocate for management training to create a culture of daily strategic thinking.
I advocate for training around creativity and right-brain thinking that leads to out-of-the-box innovations.
I advocate for transparency of data and information with managers around strategic directions.
I advocate for flexibility and pivoting within the framework of strategic directions with permission to make changes.
I advocate for more listening to staff, who may uncover strategic opportunities WITH customers and partners.
I advocate for telling the Emperor, “He has no clothes” – challenging strategies with courage.
Traditional strategic planning needs an overhaul to be more responsive, flexible and accommodate the rapid market and demographic shifts occurring daily in our world today.
It’s time for a new model. It's time for Strategic Visioning.