Navigator Insights

Six Enemies of Strategic Planning…and six ways to face them

Over the last few months I have had conversations with leaders of large and small organisations that invariably include a sense of dissatisfaction with strategy.

Now strategy development can be a baffling process.  Mostly they say it is not the strategy itself that concerns them, but a perceived lack of results.  But deeper questioning has, in most cases, led to a position where the leaders have all recognised that they are having difficulty in executing their strategy.

For me, this raises a red flag…are we looking at situations where the strategy is effectively faulty?  And, poor strategy is almost impossible to execute.

There are ways this can be addressed and simple frameworks can help.  Roger Kaufman gives some useful hints about what to avoid and how to avoid them.  Six ideas that can be used as tools to check how you are doing!

  1. A focus on means rather than ends.  Overcome this enemy by turning it on its head.  Look at the WHAT and not the HOW.
  2. The failure to recognise the three levels of results:  micro (individual), macro (organisational) and mega (societal).  Overcome this by understanding the distinctions among the three levels and linking them together.
  3. Written objectives that give destination without supplying precise criteria for knowing when you have arrived.  Overcome this enemy by preparing objectives that include measures of success.
  4. Needs that are defined as gaps in resources or methods (means).  Overcome this enemy by defining needs as gaps in results (ends), rather than rushing into premature solutions to ill-defined problems.
  5. A mission that is practical, real world, do-able, and achievable, without being focused on a vision.  Overcome this enemy by defining an ideal vision.
  6. Reliance on plans that are comfortable and acceptable.  Overcome this enemy by pushing out of comfort zones and looking at where you should be, not just where you feel comfortable.

Navigating one’s way through the strategy-execution-outcome continuum is never easy, and it is a moving target because to world outside the organisation is dynamic.  But with a few simple tools is becomes easier to review progress and make necessary adjustments. And avoid being over-planned and under-delivered.

See Kaufman R (1992)  Six steps to strategic success.  Training & Development  46(5):107-112 for further information

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