Who Killed The Strategic Plan?

Academic experts and business school professors in increasing numbers have been announcing the official “death” of strategic planning.
“The emerging doctrine suggests that a continuous process of evolution must be adopted – and encouraged.”
Karl Albrecht (Futurist & Strategist)

Gravestone

Mr. Albrecht now refers to the process as “Strategic Conversation” because too often, the outcome of strategic planning is SPLOTS: Strategic Plans Languishing On The Shelf.
That ain’t the way God planned it.

We’ve all seen it and some of us have participated in it:

  • A group of well-meaning folks get together to discuss the progress and future of the Big Whatever.
  • We hear about where we are and how we got there.
  • We throw up ideas on future betterment.
  • Everyone goes around and vote for the best ideas, sometimes using sticky paper dots to mark our choices.
  • Finally, the facilitator congratulates everyone and produces a hard copy or PDF of the planned outcomes.

And, if the plan isn’t regularly reread and revisited? SPLOTS!
Thus the Strategic Conversation.

In order to keep the process alive and worth the effort, the organization should adopt at least these 3 specific tactics to ensure vitality and relevance:

  1. Set specific dates in the future to revisit the ideas.
  2. Choose specific criteria to judge the progress of the outcomes
  3. Identify every major activity of the organization with its corresponding segment from the plan so that people aren’t tempted to stray from the path by things bright and shiny.

That doesn’t mean that the plan can’t be changed. Every plan changes. But it means that the organization must return to the strategy and consider what and why the changes should occur. Sometimes this means abandoning part of the original intention (see previous post on planned abandonment).

Otherwise they’re all just good intentions and as the philosopher said long ago, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Have you dusted off your strategic plan lately???? Hmm???

Organized Abandonment

“Every organization has to prepare for the abandonment of everything it does”
—Peter Drucker

Austrian-born Peter Drucker became the guru of modern American management. He was a consultant, author of 39 books, and educator who advocated a common-sense theory of management. He’s one of my favorite authors about business and the above is one of my favorite quotes because it’s so thought-provoking and, at least on the surface, radical.

Peter Drucker

“Radical” is only on the surface. In every professional endeavor, you have to be ready to do new things, but you also must be thinking of things that you will stop doing. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day and sleep is a requirement.

Every business in every industry, must continue to change and virtually recreate itself. Every leader must constantly ask, as Drucker did, “What can we stop doing?” Because we all have limited resources and in order to “boldly go” forward, we need to recognize what might be holding us back and what practices either are or shortly will become, outdated.

I like to put it this way: Start, stop, continue.

  • What new thing should we try?
  • What is something we’re currently doing where we can cut back or eliminate?
  • What practices should we continue because they’re working now and we believe that they can keep working in the future.

Here’s an example. I recently rented a car. In the shuttle bus on the way to the cars, I received an email from the rental agency telling me which parking spot I would find my car. Going out of the lot, the attendant scanned the bar code on the windshield, verified my ID/drivers license, and the scanner spit out a brief rental agreement. It saved time, paper, and somewhere it saved them money.
They’re still renting cars but almost everything about the procedure has changed.

It means that you need to look at everything in the organization as temporary. Permanence is dead.

What’s something that you could stop doing?