Over the past three or four years, my approach to strategic planning has been changing. I used to think that a comprenhesive plan was the way to go. Why? Because I believed that you could through an analytical process control all factors of your organization. Increasingly, I found, not only with clients, but with my own business that control in that sense was sort of an illusion. Here are some additional thoughts on this.
It is like the old adage, "Life happens while you are making plans." While you spend 10-12 months planning, do your SWOT analysis, conduct all your interiews, research, and write your planning drafts, the work of the business continues on. The issues that you are trying to address are also developing. Things don't stop so you can plan. They keep increasing or declining. All of us work in a dynamic environment, yet tradtional planning assumes that you can stop and plan for five years out.
Second, most of these five year plans do not have five years of work or development in them. I remember the first plan I did in 1989 as a board member for a local children's health organization in West Virginia. It was a three year plan. We completed the plan in 18 months. I've seen this repeated over and and over. Why the need for a three-to-five year plan? Because the old Soviets did it? See what happened to them. No, I think the push to lengthen planning time is another aspect of trying to control the conditions of business.
Third, the tradtional approach is highly analytical, very linear, and as a result misses all sorts of information that is helpful.
So, what do you do? Simply put, you have to be a strategic thinker at all times. You have to change the way you operate so that strategic planning is a skill that is conducted every day, not every three years. This is a change in how leaders function. I'll write more about this soon. But let me suggest that you look into two perspectives that I find very helpful.
1. Henry Mintzberg's 1994 classic, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning.
2. Col. John Boyd's OODA Loop system. This is a decision-making cycle that puts the leader into an ongoing strategic development perspective.
The benefit of changing your planning process? If the issues that you look forward to addressing over the next three years can be addressed today, is that a good thing? If it means that you are three years ahead or even three months ahead of your competitors, then of course it is. Stay tuned, more to come.