Your Strategic Planning suffers if your starting point isn’t on a firm foundation. No leader wants to build their business on a flawed plan, and yet, many business leaders fall into the same trap that I did when creating my new strategic plan. You shortcut your planning process. You “refresh” your strategic plan. You update your strategy each year. And then you declare that it is a new plan for the business.
As a result – you build your future business on the flaws of past planning.
So, how can you avoid making the same mistake that I did? It takes only a few simple changes in your beliefs and your thinking. And, less than four hours of your time.
It was time for our annual strategic planning cycle. Putting together our 2018 plan seemed so easy. I was definitely going to avoid the 3 Strategic Planning Pitfalls.
After all, once you have developed your baseline strategic plan, each year should be an easy “refresher,” an abbreviated version of the planning process, right?
I was about to learn my lesson in thinking that. With all good intentions, I quickly jumped into refreshing my existing Strategic Plan and took a few innocuous shortcuts on my planning process.
Thinking I could take shortcuts was my first mistake. Since when does abbreviating a process generate a powerful outcome?
My second mistake is a common one. Like many others undertaking the annual Strategic Planning process in follow-on years, I started with these outdated principles:
- Build on the past years’ momentum
- Leverage what we’ve already invested in programs, clients, markets and staff
- It’s good to say “yes” to opportunities that present themselves
- Being in action is a key to success
- It is best to have several business lines designed to weather economic ups and downs than to be focused on only one area of expertise
One day later, my 2018 Strategic Planning refresh was complete. After eight hours of precious time taken away from the demands of the business, I had what I was convinced was a thorough plan for 2018 and beyond. I told myself that it was a plan that I could use to inspire the team.
The next day I presented the plan to my CFO and Marketing Chief.
It did not go as planned.
Why Shortcuts Don’t Work in Strategic Planning
Imagine that it is a chilly winter day and you are on a beach with sand in your bathing suit. UGH! Hardly inspiring and less engaging than a beach trip in the cold. In other words, what I had created was a complete failure. I should have been skiing down the slopes of a mountain, but I got lost in taking shortcuts and wound up in the wrong place doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
My shortcut process ended up generating a repeat of last year’s plan, only with a few words, initiatives and goals “fine-tuned” and “tweaked” based on how the business was changing.
Like many others business leaders, I had fooled myself into believing that there is great power in leverage, and in reusing content and structure from the past, to create a plan for the future. I was afraid to take too much time to plan, so I took a shortcut and wound up lost on backroads that lead nowhere.
What I also learned is that hidden in my “shortcut” way of thinking was a belief that it takes too long to create a Strategic Plan from nothing. I thought that starting with a clean sheet of paper would somehow hinder the progress of my business, instead of realizing the powerful tool it was. As Devra Gartenstein says in her blog Why is Strategic Planning Important to a Business, “Strategic planning provides a road map to help your business get from where you are now to where you want to be. Milestones are expressed in specific terms, as quantifiable objectives that measure whether you’re proceeding as planned and, if not, how far you’ve gone off path.”
The problem with this approach is that there are inherent flaws in our thinking and decision-making about Strategic Planning. And, when we use the past as a reference point to make choices for the future, we are bound to repeat and potentially magnify the flaws buried in our past thinking.
New Strategic Planning Core Principles to Start Using Now
Once I got over defending my flawed plan for 2018, and I took responsibility for wasting precious time, I returned to developing a new Strategic Plan for our business.
This time, I went to the beginning of the process and used our own One Page Strategic Planning method (yes, even I take shortcuts when I know better than to do so!).
I started with a blank sheet of paper, the One Page Strategic Planning template, our online 1-hour instructional video, and a new set of core principles.
New Core Principles:
- Develop a plan based on what I want to create for the future
- Imagine that it is already the future for the business and the plan describes how we got there
- Be eager to say, “I don’t know,” and curious about where the resources may come from
- Create an empowered team based on each person’s strengths
- Focus on the core business and say “no” to everything else
This time, it took me less