Sunday, May 6, 2012

What are the Do’s and Don’ts of Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning works (when done properly) because it disciplines the organisation to harness the intellectual energy of all employees and guides the organisation in a clear direction and where implementation is recognised as the driver of strategy, rather than the planning process which is simply the means to an end.

These days it often seems that everybody considers themselves a strategic expert – when in fact the ‘pool’ of great strategists is small and intimate. Unfortunately the fact that everyone considers themselves an ‘expert’ in this specialised field is one of the major problems facing organisations today.

Until you’ve actually been at the ‘helm’ driving a strategic process from design, development, through implementation to a successful conclusion, you are only fooling yourself and your organisation if you overestimate your skills and knowledge. It’s not just the theory that is important but understanding the practical implications of each step of the process – so some of the thing you should do are;

1)     To involve the whole organisation in the strategic planning process;
2)     To effectively identify the ‘real’ strategic options;
3)     To accurately assess your organisations strengths and weaknesses;
4)     To be flexible to changes in the whole ‘environment’ during the process;
5)     To give the right support through the process;
6)     To make decisions based on facts;
7)     To make sure you can ‘measure’ the success of the implementation process;
8)     To ensure you have the right skills to take you to where you want to go….

And the don’ts would include;

1)     Don’t follow someone who can’t prove they have developed successful strategies;
2)     Don’t set too many goals;
3)     Don’t rush the process for the sake of an outcome;
4)     Don’t presume the final outcome until all the facts are on the table (otherwise it can be too easy to find the facts to fit a flawed strategy);
5)     Don’t avoid measurement just because someone says it’s hard to do;
6)     Don’t give people ‘tasks’ who don’t have the skills to perform them (give them the skills and the task together);
7)    Don’t bully your way to a strategic outcome – through intimidation or placing blame on people;
8)     Don’t see a strategic plan as being ‘cast in stone’;
9)     Don’t give up……

Successful strategic implementation is driven through the ownership and the commitment of an entire workforce. You achieve this by involving everyone in the process – not just as a nice thing to do – but because everyone has something to contribute.

There are many lists of the real advantages of ‘proper’ strategic planning and they all include the following key points;

1)     Supports the sustainable growth and development of the organisation;
2)     Improves the organisations competitive position;
3)     Contributes to improved decision making;
4)     Helps an organisation entering new markets or developing new products and/or services;
5)     Improves performance at the organisational, departmental and individual level;
6)     Improves internal and external confidence in the organisation;
7)     Focuses the organisation on a future state;
8)     Helps employees become aware of how they contribute to their organisations success and future growth;
9)     Helps identify external opportunities (that can be missed in an informal structure);
10) Improves organisational commitment and supports a positive culture;
11) Helps to attract the right quality of human resource and retain that resource.

Although strategic planning and implementation has been around for years and the basic tools are well known, many leadership teams still stumble in the planning and execution stages. So when it comes to strategy development be honest about what you know and what you don’t know, be honest about the real practical experience you have in formulating and implementing successful strategies – honesty upfront can allow a top team to approach strategy from a point of learning, refection, development and implementation and give them a chance of success. Anything less will just lead to suboptimal strategies and defensive leadership – which isn’t of any good to an organisation and its stakeholders.


Al-Shammari, H.A. and Hussein, R.T. (2008). Strategic planning in emergent market organisations: empirical investigation. International Journal of Commerce and Management, Vol. 18, No.1, p.47-59.

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