A certain question inevitably arises whenever I work with clients on developing business strategies and architecting Strategic Plans. It goes something like this: “How do we ensure that the plan that we just created stays in synch with the ever changing direction of our organization?”
The concern is so prevalent, in fact, that I have come to recommend the adoption of a new business principle that, if adopted by the senior leadership team and institutionalized via their regularly scheduled planning meetings (held throughout the year), becomes the cornerstone of keeping the strategic plan relevant and vibrant for years to come.
Let me share with you this principle along with its rationale and implications:
Strategic Planning will be a continuously performed process and all new initiatives will be evaluated via this process before inclusion in the Strategic Plan.
This principle is an important means of turning the widely accepted and outdated idea about strategic planning as being nothing more than an annual budget planning exercise on its ear.
Instead, this principle calls for strategic planning to become a constant, continuous process that ensures that businesses are able to adjust and evolve as competitive necessities dictate.
Further, by embracing this notion, the organization is clearly recognizing the value of the Strategic Planning practice as a means for evaluating future business options and investment choices (while it further recognizes the Strategic Plan as the proper placeholder for “all things strategic”).
Finally, the Strategic Plan documentation element ensures that the Best Practices Enterprise™ (see heading above for a definition) has an “organizational memory” which can be referenced in the future as the individual’s memories of what took place have faded.
· The Strategic Planning process must be documented and published.
· Personnel (at all levels) must be trained in the planning process and be required to apply it in all that they do.
· A Communications program must be put in place to ensure that all staff fully understands the planning process and their role in it.
· A Strategic Planning Office must be staffed in order to administer the planning process and ensure its integrity.
· Because of the procedural and cultural change that this principle represents, the management team must be prepared for some resistance among their ranks, and, be willing to work to keep each other “honest” as the new planning behaviors are being learned.
Certainly, there’s a lot to making plans and sticking to them. But, the adoption of a new business pricniple aimed at instituting and formalizing the planning process can go a long way to making your strategic plan a lasting and important management tool.