3 Stumbling Blocks that Get in the Way of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning refers to a long-term plan to identify specific goals that lead the company towards its mission, creating specific strategies or directions and the actions needed to achieve the same. The managers who execute the mission understand the value of the concept. The only problem is that there are a lot of misconceptions about the implementation.

Some experts have branded strategic planning as a lie. One of the main reasons is that the result often is not the same as was originally conceived in the strategic plan. Another criticism is that the normal way of doing business takes over and the bold, innovative plans made in the strategic planning exercise get sidelined. What are the real issues faced by the managers that lead to such contradictory results?

Unrealistic expectation.

Many times, when you have identified the stumbling blocks to a company’s growth, the way forward or the solution is very clear. You make a fixed plan, a perfect rollout that when followed would yield the desired result. This expectation is unrealistic as the plan should be flexible enough to change as per the market situation while keeping the end objective fixed. 

Change the strategic mindset.

What is required to understand that the business environment would be volatile and you can never come up with a perfect plan? Also, we as individuals have a fixed or a flexible/ growth mindset. A fixed mindset believes that capabilities such as a person’s intelligence are what you are born with and are difficult to change. A growth mindset, on the other hand, that individuals abilities can be moulded and developed over time.

The solution is to understand that individuals have a huge capacity to learn and adapt if given the proper directions. This makes them more willing to experiment and be flexible in the execution of the plan as required by the market.

Wrong model.

Sometimes, we choose the wrong approach even though we think of a good strategic plan. This is where the execution fails, as you have one plan in mind, plan another and end up executing neither.

How do you rectify this?

Shift the planning model.

Do not be too particular about the plan or approach to use when doing the strategic planning exercise. Do not limit your strategic plan due to a specific, preferred method of planning.

Rather than viewing a strategic plan as a final, irrevocable document, make it a series of stages, complete each stage, review, do the required changes and then proceed to the next stage.

This would help in understanding the value of strategic planning. The future may not work out as exactly as planned, but so long as the direction is right and we move towards our vision, any plan is better than no plan at all. 

Budget override.

Allocation of resources is always the bone of contention, as there are many projects to be implemented and very limited resources. This results in every manager focusing on meeting the budget, rather than thinking beyond the budget. The budget, on many occasions, overrides the strategic thanking and places a limit on planning.

Loosen the connection between budget and plan.

You have to have a flexible plan and plan within the budget. The budget expectations have to be met, but the planning should be flexible enough to meet the budget and at the same time get close to the plans. 

With a flexible strategic plan, you would be able to improve the results and also meet your budgets. At the same time planning helps team leaders to explore fresh opportunities outside of the normal work planned for the same period.

Strategic plan for the future.

Strategic planning is a way of drawing a plan to manage the ever-changing business landscape. It is an essential part of any business and it is not going to disappear. 

At the same time, it is not a set-and-execute document. It should be flexible and be developed with a responsive process of continual anticipation, and manage the changing business environment dynamically. 

3 Stumbling Blocks that Get in the Way of Strategic Planning
by Graham Kenny HBR 2022/04
April 28, 2022

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