Leaders, managers and employees, in general, spend countless hours attending meetings to review reports, plan activities, be berated for all the things that have gone wrong by a senior leader, or just wasting time discussing topics that have no appreciable effect on performance and could just as well be discussed over a glass of wine and a few appetizers.

In fact, managers often spend more than 50% of their time attending meetings, but studies show that 2/3s of those meetings end before key decisions can be made. And, while meetings are critically important, meetings alone will not enhance organizational performance that translates into a competitive advantage if they aren’t backed up with thoughtful planning, well developed business strategies, viable actions plans and effective execution.

Although employees at all levels of an organization intuitively know planning is critical, many organizations don’t do it simply because it takes considerable time, energy and resources. Other excuses commonly cited for not conducting strategic planning include:

  • They don’t know how
  • Don’t see the benefits
  • Don’t think it’s necessary
  • You may be panicking and looking for a quick fix – there are none!
  • Uncomfortable with change
  • Ostrich syndrome
  • Don’t recognize external threats
  • More comfortable with a band-aid rather than committing to a lasting solution.

What is Strategic Planning?  Strategic Planning is an ongoing fluid process, not a static, written plan to be placed on a shelf and forgotten. A strategic plan helps your organization focus on how you will win in the future. The strategic planning process focuses on three critical questions:

  1. Where is your organization now?
  2. Where do you want to go?
  3. How are you going to get there?

Benefits of Strategic Planning There are many benefits to strategic planning, including the fact that it helps your leaders articulate an inspiring vision and establish direction and it helps ensure that stakeholders can understand, support and contribute to your organization’s vision and strategy. The strategic planning process challenges leaders to recognize internal and external obstacles facing the company and work together to develop solutions to the organization’s problems while leveraging their natural strengths. Effective planning: Benefits of Strategic Planning The Strategic Planning Process The strategic planning process is based on a fundamental decision-making or problem solving model that includes the following steps:

  1. Articulating your organization’s vision and mission
  2. Defining where your organization is now with respect to that vision and mission
  3. Defining where you want to go or be at the end of the process (i.e. the business goal or desired outcome)
  4. Gathering intel from both internal and external sources
  5. Developing alternative action plans and strategies to address the information learned
  6. Implementing the action plans
  7. Evaluating and revising those action as appropriate to achieve maximum results

This problem solving model, when applied to strategic planning, yields a strategic planning process with four very distinct, but critical phases: Strategic Planning 4 Phases                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           In Phase 1, strategy formulation, vision and mission statements are drafted or updated and your organizational values and OC (organizational culture) are defined. In Phase 2, strategy development, a SWOT analysis is conducted. A  SWOT analysis is a planning tool that, when used properly, provides an overall view of the most important factors influencing the future of your organization. The SWOT analysis provides the foundation for a reflective self-assessment of how your organization is performing to its mission, vision, goals and objectives. SWOTSWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. The analysis results form the basis for developing strategic plans, objectives and action plans that will ensure the organization remains competitive. These strategic plans, objectives and action plans take into consideration many different internal and external factors that maximize the potential of the organization’s strengths and opportunities, while minimizing the impact of its weaknesses and threats. This approach helps ensure efficient use of resources to provide beneficial organizational outcomes. A SWOT analysis enables proactive thinking rather than habitual or instinctive reactions. Participants should not necessarily pursue the more lucrative opportunities. Rather it may have a better chance of developing a competitive advantage by identifying a fit between the organization’s strengths and upcoming opportunities During Phase 3, strategy implementation, the rubber hits the road. Viable action plans are developed and put into action by:

  • Developing short term organizational goals and objectives
  • Identifying specific action plans designed to ensure those objectives can be achieved
  • Allocating the resources needed to accomplish the action plans and objectives, and
  • Inspiring and engaging employees to make it happen

The final phase, Phase 4: strategy evaluation ensures results are achieved and continuous improvement tweaks are on-going and sustainable. These activities include:

  • Evaluating strategies for effectiveness in delivering results
  • Measuring performance to objectives
  • Taking corrective actions as needed

Success is driven through the alignment of your Leadership, Strategy and Culture. Before you can attempt to establish an effective OC (Organizational Culture) based on your values and philosophies, and aligned with your leadership and strategies, you have to know 3 things: 1) where your organization is now, 2) where you want it to go, and 3) how you are going to get there – in other words, you must develop a strategic plan. Making it Real Do you know what your organization’s purpose is? Do you understand how your role and your performance aligns with your organization’s strategic plan? What’s your story of how your leadership, strategy and culture align – or don’t align? Source: Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins, and Paul Rogers, authors of Decide & Deliver: 5 Steps to Breakthrough Performance in Your Organization.