Developing and maintaining effective strategic momentum for an organization is one of the most significant achievements possible for a leader. And, it is an increasingly difficult challenge to create a minimally sufficient and achievable plan in the face of the wicked problems we are dedicated to alleviating. In my work with teaching organizations an agile and dependable strategic planning practice, the following challenges are commonly reported as tensions that inhibit the development of a plan that all parts of an organization can get behind. The first is getting too much or too little input from the relevant parties in an organization.
Too much input, without a way of sorting wheat from chaff efficiently and fairly on behalf of the whole organization, can bog a process down and invite input that is too attached to its own perspective to be helpful. Too little input produces an anemic result that has little sticking power in the long run. One solution organizations have found to this dilemma is to have each team or department in an organization elect a representative to participate in the development and implementation of a strategic plan. Perhaps most important in this model is for the strategic practice team to use an adequately comprehensive road map for the strategic planning process. In addition, this process must include a rapid and reliable method for making decisions that integrates all the perspectives at the table on behalf of the bigger picture.
The second common challenge is taking too long to develop a plan that is out of date by the time the plan is clear. Our world operates at an increasing pace of change with new impactful developments arriving every day. Most strategic planning processes were developed in an era of greater stability and within a culture of command and control where the top knew best and would tell all the rest. The key to an effective strategic plan that is adequately responsive to changing conditions is instituting a distributed strategic planning practice throughout the organization.
The third common difficulty I see with strategic planning is lack of good measures for the initiative we wish to launch and a paucity of effective data tracking which can be used at every meeting to help us identify if we’re on track or not. Often we don’t get the feedback we need to change course until too late. An effective, agile strategic planning practice that’s distributed throughout an organization has the capacity to deliver the kind of engaged and responsive action that our complex world requires. In summary, a leader can institute an organization wide strategic planning practice with each team articulating the plan for their department in alignment with the direction of the whole, using the same framework for the process, including an effective rapid collaborative decision making model, and the tracking of key points of data that allow each team and the whole to know in real time how the work is progressing. To provide some fuel for your thinking, here’s a link to a high level view of such a framework, and Happy Planning!