More Strategic Planning Myths

It will take years to see the impact of strategic planning.

Myth. While you and your team spend time shaping where you want to be in three to five years, that is quickly translated into actions you start taking immediately.

At the beginning of the first strategic planning meeting we facilitate with a new company, we ask how this planning meeting can fail. Once of the more common answers is "if we go back to work Monday and nothing changes."

The impact is immediate once the team decides where it wants to be and what has to change in order to get there.

I need to wait until I have our new CFO/COO/CMO/CTO on board.

True. If you are planning to bring a new key player on board within the next 90 days, you should delay the strategic planning meeting until then. The planning meeting builds consensus and commitment among the attendees. Someone joining the team later can't have the same level of commitment. If your new player isn't expected for at least 90 days, then you should weigh the value of starting execution of your plan today against the additional commitment of your new player.

Occasionally we have new or -- in a couple of cases -- potential hires attend the planning meeting as their first introduction to the company. This works. The new player quickly gains an understanding of the major issues, other team members' thinking and motivation, the overall direction of the organization, and the leadership role they are expected to execute. They leave with specific objectives and 90-day action steps that help speed their integration into the organization.

Strategic planning is primarily a brainstorming session.

Myth. You don't often go into a planning meeting in the computer business and come out in the shoe business. Strategic planning is dealing with the twin issues of communications and focus.

The process is not about coming up with entirely new, off-the-wall ideas, but rather thoroughly listening to, understanding, synthesizing, and then prioritizing the current set of hopes, dreams, and ideas.

Intense, facilitated discussion and prioritization of issues clarifies where the organization is today. Developing and articulating vision, mission, and strategy establish what we want to be in the future. You then identify the gap between where you want to be and where momentum -- i.e. the status quo -- is taking you.

You fill that gap by literally changing the status quo. Each strategic goal is focused on changing the status quo. It takes the commitment of the entire senior team and its sustained focus and effort to change the status quo.

Team planning leads to group-think and compromise.

Myth, notwithstanding the old story about a camel being a horse designed by committee. The objective of the planning team is to reach consensus rather than compromise.

By way of illustration, when John's wife and partner Mary wanted to vacation in Alaska and John wanted to spend two weeks in the Caribbean, they didn't compromise and spend time in Kansas. That would not have satisfied either of them. Instead, they selected one of the multiple solutions that made sense and reached a consensus on doing it.

The goals and objectives in a strategic plan may not be exactly what any individual in the team would have selected if they were king but they must be and are goals that the entire team agrees are best for the organization.

We have a plan -- the CEO wrote it himself.

Myth. The CEO's loyal team will try to implement the CEO's plan to the best of their understanding and ability, but if they run into problems they'll come and tell the CEO, "Your plan isn't working, what do you want me to do?" Even if the plan that comes out of the planning meeting is 99.99% similar to one the CEO could have written over a weekend, it will be better. For one thing, 5 to 12 minds are better than one. For a second thing, we don't get paid to plan -- we get paid to implement.

The best plan is one that actually gets implemented. That is why a plan developed by the implementation team will always beat a plan imposed on the implementation team - even willingly.

"If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
- African proverb

We need a facilitator who knows our industry.

Myth. The role of the facilitator is to help the team gain a common understanding of the issues and develop a single envisioned future. The facilitator provides a structure and process for translating that understanding into a plan that bridges the gap between vision and tactics.

There is no consultant who knows more about your business than the 5 to 12 executives on the planning team. They live the business. They've probably forgotten more about the business then any consultant will ever know.

If there is some important aspect of the business that the team identifies as one that they don't understand, then they will make it a strategic goal to gain that understanding. With a consensus on the specific need flows a commitment of resources and attention to an action plan that will gain the missing information in a timely manner.

In the end, the consultant goes home and the team implements. The team is the only group with the vested interest to become experts in your company's business!

Planning is an overhead function.

True, albeit an essential one. The best way to manage an overhead function is determine ahead of time how much time you are going to invest in it and then make sure everyone makes the best use of that time budget.

As much planning as you do, you can always do more, yet nothing happens until you stop planning and take action. Balance is the key. We recommend devoting two intense, dedicated days annually to regenerating the plan. You build a fresh plan based on where you are today, based on the passions and competences of the team you have today.

The key is to commit to a planning budget up front. Then scale your planning to the budget. Too often I've seen organizations blow their planning budget with a big annual effort that doesn't leave time for periodic follow-up.

The other element of budgeting is the number of strategic goals you set forward. If you have the resources to complete five strategic goals, don't set ten. You will either end the year with ten unfinished goals or with only 3 to 5 of the easiest ones finished. Odds are the the most important goal to accomplish is also the hardest.

Once you have your five-year plan you don't need to have another planning meeting for another five years.

Myth. You don't go to Mount Sinai to plan and you don't publish your plan on stone tablets. While the plan identifies where you want to be in five years, it has to be executed in the present.

Over the space of a year, things happen. The organization changes, the market changes, the passions and competences of the team can change. We succeed beyond our wildest imagination and we find that sometimes technology and markets chose not to embrace our dreams. Everywhere you look we've learned things.

Managing change is why we have management. If things never changed we wouldn't need managers - everyone would learn their job and just do it.

Every year you have to tear up your plan and rebuild it from vision through tactics. Most likely your vision, mission, and strategy won't change much, if at all, but to insure the integrity of the plan you must be open to that possibility. Then you develop a new set of strategic goals, objectives, and purely tactical action steps for the coming year. (We have unified the various elements of the strategic plan into a single structure called the Progress Pyramid. Check it out here ».)

There's no wrong time of the year to do planning.

True. There are plusses and minuses associated with any planning date.

Some companies like to do strategic planning after the fiscal year has ended so they have current performance data to base the plan on. Other companies like to do planning a couple of months before the end of the fiscal year so that the strategic plan shapes priorities for the operating plan.

Some companies like to do strategic planning at mid-year so that the team keeps some distance between their strategic thinking and operations.

And then, some companies start planning this month because the organization is suffering from a lack of focus and communications. First they build planning momentum and then shift to a more advantageous date after either a short planning year or long planning year.

With Myrna Associates' strategic planning service, you can you have a quality plan within two weeks from today.

Don't wait. Contact us today »

First page of strategic planning myths »