The Dos and Don’ts of Strategic Planning
By Rebecca Staton-Reinstein
Strategic Planning has made a comeback worldwide. Companies,
governmental agencies and nonprofits are all adopting it. Although
Strategic Planning has been around for years and the basic tools are
well known, many leadership teams still stumble in the planning and
execution stages. The basic eight pairs of “do’s and don’ts” are
based on the experiences of a wide range of organizations. They
will help you lock in your prospects for success and avoid common
follow the (modified) KISS principle: Keep it Simple and
Sustained. Less is more. Your goal is to create goals and
objectives that focus your work for the next year or two. Limit
the goals and objectives to one page so you can manage on the
Don’t set too many Goals XE "Goals" or Objectives or go
into greater detail than necessary XE "Objectives" . Too
many details, goals or objectives lead to confusion, conflicting
goals, micromanagement and failure to execute. A successful
plan is not measured by the pound.
follow all of the steps as described in proven planning
methodology as it was designed. You chose it because of its
reputation. Learn from others’ success.
Don’t skip steps or do them partially. If you bought an
expensive briefcase, you wouldn’t immediately change the handle,
put on a different carrying strap or have it dyed another
color. Avoid tinkering with the process, since you have no data
to justify your changes.
stay focused on the Mission XE "Mission" . The Mission,
what the organization wants to do or be, is central for planning
and day-to-day execution. Before you accept any goal,
objective, strategy or tactic or take action ask, “How will
this help fulfill the Mission?”
Don’t do things because “we’ve always done it,” or “I think we
should do it even though it doesn’t fit our Mission.”
Without the Mission driving your decisions, you will miss
innovative solutions, drift off course or become reactionary.
use the “brain dump” activity to alleviate the urge to begin the
Tactical Plan XE "Tactical Plan" prematurely. You are an
excellent tactician and, faced with a problem, you quickly
suggest solutions. This is a liability in strategic planning
where you and your team have to create high level goals and
specific objectives based on the Mission. List every
idea the team has. Set these ideas, the “brain dump,” aside
until you are ready to create the tactical plan.
Don’t begin laying out the Tasks before the Mission XE "Mission"
, Goals XE "Goals" and Objectives XE "Objectives" are
clearly stated. The Mission sets the context for the Goals,
which are the context for Objectives, specific, measurable
results. Choose tactics to achieve these higher level results
from your brain dump at the END of the process.
Measure, Measure, Measure! Select useful, significant
measurements for all goals, objectives and tactics. What
information do you need to make decisions? Revisit KISS: Keep
It Simple and Significant.
Don’t avoid measurement because it is hard to do.
Measurement may be difficult, especially when dealing with
customer satisfaction, employee morale or effectiveness. Define
some way to measure these intangibles so you can gauge progress
measure quality of results, wherever possible. Quality
measures how customers judge your products or services. This
provides the best information for strategic decision making and
keeps you focused on the mission and customer.
Don’t select productivity measures, just because they are easier
to define. Important as it is, productivity does not tell
you if you are creating a product or service that the customer
wants. You can always make junk faster. When you focus on
quality, you are more productive, since you reduce costly
provide support, resources, training, guidance, direction and
coaching to assure everyone’s success. People cannot
perform well unless they have everything they need to do the
job. The plan is only as good as its execution, which depends
on great people management.
Don’t dump people into situations without providing what they
need to get the job done. Delegation means understanding
what the person needs to get the job done and providing it. You
can only hold people accountable for what they can actually
Manage by Fact: We are judged by our results. Good planning
sets the stage for good performance. Review results regularly
to make decisions and manage. The basic dialogue: “Are we on
target?” “Yes” “Keep up the good work.” “No”
“What is your plan to get back on target?” Targets are just
targets. Look for root causes of undesired results. When you
are not getting the desired results, investigate the root causes
and modify your plans or targets appropriately.
Don’t manage by intimidation, placing blame or gut feel.
These approaches don’t work since people may comply but they
won’t be fully engaged. Don’t ignore off target data or make
excuses. The opposite of the “blame game” is denial. If a goal
or objective is not reached, investigate, find the root cause,
devise a solution and re-plan. Unfounded hope is not a strategy
for success in the real world.
Strategic Planning works because it disciplines the organization to
harness the intellectual energy of all employees and guides the
organization in a clear direction. The Plan is the Boss. Following
these “Do’s and Don’ts” will help you plan and execute successfully.
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