Monday, October 4, 2010

Plan Your Work: The Intricacies of Strategy - Part # 2

THEME: Fall 2010 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable Report

FOCUS: Plan Your Work: The Intricacies of Strategy - Part # 2

Monday morning: October 4, 2010

Dear friends,

When confronted with complexity this year, many executives are succumbing to a mentality of “We were successful in the past so we will be successful in the future.” This level of corporate arrogance is not serving them well and will cause major problems during future strategic planning. They forget that strategic planning is a really two major processes happening at the same time.

First, strategic planning is the creation of a document that will define short and long term plans to guide the organization into the future. Second, it is the process of generating strategic dialogues throughout the organization about the emerging trends and whether or not the organization will have the capacity, i.e. skill and mind set, to deal with these trends in the future. If both elements are not in place during the planning process then the document and those who will implement the document will not be adaptable to unforeseen variables. Rather the result of the process will be a rigid set of instructions or tactics which has the potential to create organizational vulnerability.

Therefore, when wanting to improve the development of strategy, we need to remember five key points. First, as leaders, we must invest more time in explaining “Why?” and “How?”. If unaware stakeholders are going to move to aware, and if awareness is going to move to understanding, then we need to keep repeating why the organization must change and how it will change. We must, as William Bridges wrote, vigorously “sell the problems.” We also, from my perspective, need to explain how today’s success or current challenges are a reflection of past decisions. Many employees this fall can not see how the decisions of the past are connected to the outcomes we are experiencing today.

Second, we as leaders need to clearly define what is negotiable vs. non-negotiable within the strategic planning process. It is important to remember that the strategic nexus is made up of two parts, one half is the mission, vision and core values and the other half is the strategic plan. The former preserves the core and the later stimulates progress.

Third, strategy is not a laundry list of big projects. It has to indicate a sense of direction and generate short term wins which will build confidence in the people, the strategy and the company. A laundry list is not flexible but instead results in strategy feeling like a burden, thus reducing focus and commitment. A laundry list also can not always be translated into SMART goals which position the organization for the future.

Fourth, when developing strategy, remember to differentiate between ripe, ripening and unripe issues. I was working with a company this summer on a strategic plan and when we came to a certain issue, one of the people in the room noted, “while this is a growing problem, we are not ready to deal with it yet. Our solution to this issue should be in the next three year plan after we have overhauled key systems in this plan.” I was so proud of them for they recognized that all problems need not be dealt with at the same time and in the same manner.

Finally, when developing strategy, Jim Collins is absolutely correct. It will always be “who before what.” Too many times in 2010, I have wondered why certain people were involved in the development of strategy. Their presence may be politically correct but not strategically smart. As one who has observed and worked with groups for many decades, one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. Be very careful about who you invite into the process.

This week, plan your strategic planning more carefully and remember to think more broadly about strategy. If you need any help, do not hesitate to call.

Have a great week,


Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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