Why Most Strategic Plans Collect Dust

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!" This statement is not totally true, there are plenty of successful enterprises that have gotten off the ground without any clearly defined plan. It is amazing what frenetic activity and action can do.

Once an organization reaches a point of critical mass and experiences increased complexity some type of plan is necessary to run a successful business. What surprises me about most organizations that have engaged in strategic planning is that after all that time and effort, they allow the plan to collect dust. Below is a starter list of reasons why most plans make little impact on the life of the business. If you can avoid the pitfalls, you may end up with a plan that matters.

  • Too long to create: If the process of crafting the plan is slow, the dynamics in the marketplace will change, the data will change and the value of the results will be greatly diminished. A good planning process can happen in three intense phases:

o Information gathering

o Strategic thinking and documenting

o Implementation

  • Too much data: Many have moved forward with strategic planning based on anecdotal evidence. This is not the best approach, but far too many plans are weighted with a ton of irrelevant stats. Determine early and often the most relevant pieces of information that will inform sound strategic thinking. I suggest the following:

o What fuels your economic engine

o What does the research tell you are the felt and real needs of your customer

o Current trends in the firm's financial performance

  • Too many goals: Limit the goals to a few focused catalytic goals. There are certain goals that when pursued, achieves additional goals.

  • Too few of the players with skin in the game: It is easy to assume that including more voices slows down the process of implementation, however, so much of the success or failure of any plan is tied to the process employed in creating the plan and successfully utilizing teamwork in business. It is better to include those most responsible in implementation in the process.

  • Too many pages: Strategic plans that are documented in long books are never read or referenced. Your plan should be summarized in actionable information in one or two pages. If for political reasons you need supporting documentation print and distribute only a few copies.

  • Nothing is memorable: "Remember the Alamo!" If the key elements of the plan can't be captured in simple and memorable phrases, the plan will be lost.

  • No alignment between the plan, the organization flow chart and budget: Many members of the team will have a degree of fear related to the strategic planning process because a good plan will require some change. Keep in mind that change is easy when it is supported by an easy to follow structure. The most practical aspects of the plan will show up in two essential structures:

o The organizational flow chart

o The budget