A Strategic Plan or a Plan for Growth?

The classic strategic plan, resulting from a rigid strategic planning process, is so often viewed with skepticism, if not complete distrust by those individuals tasked with execution. It receives its fair share of jibes from staff around the water cooler and generally for good reason. Sadly as a result, it carries with it a good amount of corporate baggage.

A Dilbert comic articulated the problem perfectly. Manager – “A hacker broke into our system and found out our corporate strategy!” Dilbert – “Did he post it on the internet? I’d like to read it, I’m also curious about my objectives for this year. Do you have the guys email address?”.

Organizational mistrust of the strategic plan stems from a lack of alignment and transparency.  Those tasked with execution feel disconnected from vision and fail to see how their efforts contribute to the organization’s goals. To aggravate the problem further the strategic plan fails to evolve with constantly changing market conditions. Primarily because it is developed as a static set of ideas, fixed from the time it was created. Its rigidity causes it to age and lose its relevance. As new opportunities present themselves mid planning cycle, they need to find a home in the strategic plan, but how is this possible when the plan was “set in stone” sometime in the past?  The answer is, they don’t. They are launched as new strategic initiatives and fate of the strategic plan is sealed once again.

Progressing to the next level of strategic maturity is not that difficult to achieve.  Many organizations look upon the prospect with dread, involving massive business reengineering and the fundamental transformation of the business’ culture.  This is not a problem with the structure of the business, it is a problem of communication, transparency and accountability.

The strategic plan needs to be thought of as a plan for growth; it is a positive, forward looking, agile framework that shapes the ambitions of the organization and guides people toward a common goal.  Done properly, it will harness the collective strength of the entire enterprise and form part of the corporate culture rather than fighting against it.