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3 Reasons Your Strategic Plan Probably Stinks and How To Improve It

Strategic planning – it seems like it should be the answer to all our problems. It’s the promise of a tried-and-true process that can help us reach lofty goals. In fact, it is seen by many in all sizes of business as essential to get from Point A to Point B and designed to help provide a roadmap of how to best accomplish your organization’s goals. Unfortunately, executives in big and small companies often find their strategic plans don’t deliver the results they were expecting; an alarming 74 percent don’t believe that their company’s strategies will be successful.

The key element missing when it comes to ensuring strategic plans are effective and successful is strategy mapping: aligning the team behind a single vision statement and creating a shared understanding of the endpoint. Effective strategic planning isn’t just about following steps in a process; it’s about pointing everyone in the right direction and agreeing on the outcomes you want to achieve together.

But, in reality, strategic planning is often a waste of time and does not yield any tangible results. In fact, there are plenty of articles out there that characterize traditional strategic planning as a waste of time… if not done correctly. But what is the “correct” way to execute a strategic planning process? Keep reading and we will give you our two cents based on the last 20 years of working with SMBs in the B2B space.

The 3 Core Reasons Why the Strategic Planning Process Often Fails

There are three core reasons for failure when it comes to the strategic planning process:

  1. they are boring
  2. planned too far out
  3. breakdowns in execution

Strategic Planning Is Often Tedious and Boring

Many times we’ve seen how teams will suck creativity and genuine problem solving out of their strategic planning initiatives because they follow some “standard” or “traditional” strategic plan process. Unfortunately, this traditional approach can often lead to strategic plans being implemented by long meetings in a conference room, where sheets of paper are passed around filled with data that can become overwhelming very quickly. This can make it hard for team members to stay motivated and engaged in the strategic plan process, making it less likely they’ll contribute positively.

When strategic planning begins to lag, it can become increasingly difficult to propel the strategic management process forward. Therefore, it’s important for companies to look at different ways of executing strategic planning processes so they remain engaging and energizing. With fresh perspectives and an abundance of ideas, strategic planning can then become an opportunity for innovative solutions that meet company strategic objectives.

Five to Seven Years Is Too Long

Strategic planning processes are meant to provide businesses with guidance and direction; however, it is almost impossible to predict what challenges your business will face that far out, which discourages many from manually planning their strategic plan each year. Because of that, companies overall can lack strong vision, as well as agile strategies and fragile tactics needed for success. We see many organizations attempting this far-reaching planning because the ambitious outlook is often seen as attractive. However, strategic plans that are too far-reaching actually do more harm than good.

Ideas with long term goals and objectives become outdated very quickly due to unpredictable changing market conditions and changes in technology, for example. What we’ve seen work is chunking down big lofty goals into strategic steps within a twelve month period instead of long-term plans spanning several years for successful strategic plan implementation. Not only does this allow for more efficient decision-making processes but also allows for faster modifications when faced with changing conditions or unexpected events.

A shorter strategic plan allows for a more adaptable approach, which ensures businesses take on board changes as they happen rather than after the fact. Remember, strategic planning doesn’t need to be complex — simplicity is the most effective way to go!

Breakdowns in the Strategy Execution is Pretty Commonplace

Lastly, many strategic planning teams unfortunately come across roadblocks when it comes to strategy execution and achieving their plan goals. Without effectively aligning people towards the same goal, these plans often fail. It’s important to remember that strategic planning is only as good as its implementation, and if there are no clear paths on how to get everyone on the same page in order to attain these milestones, progress will be blocked no matter how much detail and foresight was put into strategic planning itself.

Without proper responsibility and accountability, people will find it difficult to align with each other and successfully implement strategic plans. To avoid this problem, instead of assigning a single person to lead strategy execution, organizations should ensure there is a team of key stakeholders who are all working on strategic issues and initiatives together. Each individual then can be accountable for their own responsibilities and come prepared to contribute. This shift in mindset and organizational structure can have a profound impact on strategic planning success.

That being said, sometimes it is very helpful to the outcome of the execution for an organization to appoint one key leader that has experience with creating and executing a strategic planning process and can take responsibility for ensuring the smooth operation of executing the plan. If you opt for the key leader approach, everyone should be kept up-to-date regularly with necessary outcomes, responsibilities and timelines moving forward so that real progress can be made rapidly while also upholding high standards and staying true to the strategic vision.

The 5 Characteristics Of A Great Strategic Planning Process

So what does a great strategic planning process include? The best ones have several key characteristics that will help lead to a much more energizing workplace, including:

  1. it starts with the marketing foundation in mind,
  2. it provides ample time and space for the key leader (or your leadership team) to communicate the strategy to the rest of the team,
  3. it looks at an organization’s current state and work to build integration within the framework of a marketing foundation,
  4. it allocates appropriate resources,
  5. and above all… is energizing!

Leaders must ensure they have ample time and space to talk about strategy, as well as deep dives into an organization’s current state and a comprehensive marketing foundation. Resources must be appropriately allocated in order for strategic planning initiatives to be successful.

When properly implemented, strategic plans are an integral part of any business framework, allowing organizations the capability to maximize their potentials!

The 5 Steps to Saving Your Sucky Strategic Planning process

Are you looking for an effective way to save your currently tired and sucky strategic plan? By following these four steps, you can easily save and maintain a strategic plan that works for your organization.

  1. Involve the RIGHT team
  2. Keep it super simple
  3. Review it regularly
  4. Update it annually
  5. Have fun

STEP 1: Involve the RIGHT team

A strategic plan is the roadmap of an organization and their successful execution depends heavily on having the right team in place. Involving everyone necessary in the strategic planning process is an important foundational step, so start by carefully selecting the key stakeholders who will be part of your strategic plan effort.

Be sure to include individuals who are committed to seeing it through and are open to putting forth their ideas for strategic input. Once your strategic plan is developed, it’s equally important to map out a strategy for execution with buy-in from all team members as ultimate success is achieved by having everyone involved as dedicated contributors.

STEP 2: Keep It Super SIMPLE

You don’t need a large, cumbersome planning document. In fact, we create small, guide sheets for our clients to serve as their annual roadmap for our clients regularly. Keep yours simple and at your finger tips. This will make it easier to refer back to whenever needed and keeps clarity of the goals in sight.

STEP 3: Review your strategic plan REGULARLY

Crafting a strategic plan can be a daunting task, but the review process doesn’t have to be. A strategic plan review is essential for assessing whether objectives are achievable and goals are organized to make them obtainable. When it comes to your strategic plan review, one of the first steps should be to assess the strategic plan process used up until this point: from deciding which objectives need focus to setting realistic goals.

From there, include regular reviews of your strategy map and simplified, minimal page strategic plan so appropriate adjustments can be made as soon as needed. Finally, ensure your strategic plan stays up-to-date by scheduling monthly meetings for updates and improvements as needed. With these in place, strategy mapping becomes a much more efficient process!

Furthermore, you should ensure that strategic planning will continue in the future so that changes and improvements can be made on an ongoing basis. It’s important that you’re honest with yourself during this evaluation as it will help pave the way for a successful implementation of strategies down the line.

STEP 4: Update it ANNUALLY

A strategic plan is an essential tool that guides the strategic execution process and keeps you on track towards achieving success. Updating your strategic plan annually helps to ensure that you have a clear and effective roadmap that is adapted to changing internal and external environments, as well as evolving goals.

Revising your strategic plan annually can help spark innovative solutions, identify areas of improvement, keep up with strategic trends in the marketplace, facilitate strategy mapping, and provide motivation for team members to remain focused on ambitious goals. Taking the time to review or update your strategic plan on a regular basis will help achieve maximum efficiency in everyday operations.


Tomato Fish Is An Indianapolis Consulting Company Focused On Helping Small And Midsize Businesses Make Good Strategic Planning Decisions.