Think about planning for a cross-country trip. It’s exhilarating to hit the road and see where it takes you, but even the most spontaneous travelers have a destination and a rough timeline in mind. The same principle applies to strategic planning. Whether you’re planning for the next month, quarter, or year, it’s crucial to define the actions that will impact your desired outcomes.
According to Mark Kelly, CEO of NewEdge Growth, there’s often confusion between strategic planning and tactical execution. We can get so consumed with what we’re doing tomorrow that we lose sight of the bigger picture. So, let’s explore some of the common challenges and pitfalls of strategic planning and discover how we can overcome them.
Table of Contents
Understanding the Key Challenges
To effectively address strategic planning challenges, we need to understand their core causes. The main challenges include lack of ownership, poor communication, lack of alignment, and slow adoption. These hurdles can hinder the success of your planning process if not properly addressed.
Lack of Ownership
An effective strategy requires input from various departments and functions within an organization. However, to prevent a disjointed plan, there needs to be someone who takes ownership of compiling, documenting, and executing the final strategy. Kathleen Booth, VP of Marketing at clean.io, emphasizes that clear focus and commitment to priorities are essential for achieving the goals defined in the strategic planning process. An OKR (Objectives and Key Results) framework, with individual owners responsible for follow-through, can help ensure accountability.
Collaboration is crucial in the strategic planning process, but gathering all the necessary inputs can be challenging, especially in a growing organization. Disruptions like COVID-19 can make communication even more difficult, particularly without digital collaboration tools. Finding effective ways to communicate and collaborate is essential to overcome this challenge.
Lack of Alignment
Strategic alignment is vital for the success of any well-executed plan. However, a staggering 40% of executive leaders report a lack of alignment on strategy execution within their organizations, according to the 2020 Gartner Execution Gap Survey. To tackle this challenge, Charlotte Laing, Head of Marketing at Metrikus and AirRated, emphasizes the importance of input from all parts of the organization to understand the landscape, challenges, and the most effective direction.
Even with a solid strategic plan in place, its success depends on its adoption by your teams. In fast-growing companies, constant changes to tasks, roles, teams, and strategies can quickly render plans obsolete if teams are slow to adopt them. It’s vital to ensure that your strategic plan remains relevant to everyday processes and priorities by encouraging timely adoption.
Strategies to Avoid Planning Problems
While strategic planning certainly poses challenges, there are proven solutions to address them. Here are a few strategies to consider implementing in your organization:
Build and Simplify Business Strategies Visually
Creating a structured strategic plan through visual tools like GOST (Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Tactics) can provide a clear framework. Set goals, align objectives, determine strategies for each objective, and establish tactics for execution. Mark Kelly suggests that this comprehensive approach allows you to track progress and directly impact business outcomes.
Create a Living Strategy Document
An effective strategy document is one that can evolve as market conditions change or new information emerges. Embrace flexibility and adapt your plan as needed. Don’t hold onto outdated strategies; instead, recognize when the equation has changed and make the necessary adjustments.
Scale with Resources in Mind
To unlock growth opportunities, it’s crucial to have a strategic plan that can scale with your company. Gartner reports that organizations successfully executing new growth strategies increase profitability by 77%. As you build your plan, consider how resources will be utilized as you scale. Thinking ahead will help you move beyond the pilot phase and achieve sustainable growth.
Design and Conduct Effective Training
To ensure a successful strategy shift, schedule education and training sessions to align your team with the new direction. This will minimize disruptions and help everyone understand and implement the new strategy effectively.
Make Data-Driven Decisions
Integrate data into your strategic planning process to build a solid plan. Relying on intuition alone can lead to wrong decisions. In times of uncertainty, like during the COVID-19 pandemic, quickly test and leverage relevant data to guide your target market and priority decisions. Let data lead the discussion and decision-making process for a more informed strategy.
Collaborate and Communicate
Throughout the planning process, ensure effective collaboration and communication. Include your team in strategic decisions, regardless of their size or impact. Schedule dedicated sessions to discuss proposed changes and develop plans together. This inclusive approach fosters team buy-in and often leads to better decisions.
Follow Up and Review
No strategic plan is set in stone. Regularly review the results, iterate, and optimize. Establish clear key performance indicators aligned with your company goals and set realistic expectations for results. Make time for reactive tasks to act on new ideas and adjust priorities when necessary.
Strategic planning is a complex task, but with the right tools, proactive thinking, and effective execution, you can overcome common pitfalls and shape your organization’s future. To learn more about the 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) behind strategic planning, visit 5ws.wiki.