Maybe it’s indicative of the time of year, but much of the work that we have been undertaking with clients over the last quarter has been focussed on the strategic planning process. What’s been interesting for us at OTM is that the diverse array of clients we work with has highlighted the very different approaches that are sometimes required in the application of this somewhat conventional planning process.
Conventional strategic planning is great for those organisations that are relatively stable, in that they understand their external environment(s), they have a larger number of resources (both dollars and people) to pursue bold goals and they are not struggling or contending with multiple issues that they are trying to solve through the planning process. With these organisations, strategic planning is a relatively simple process of developing the ‘Why’. The resulting strategic plan is then the consolidation of the development of the vision and values statements, the refinement of these based on a comprehensive SWOT analysis and the selection of the strategies and goals that are required over a specified timeframe to achieve the vision. Operational plans are then developed that drill down deeper into the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ over (normally) a year.
Nice and simple….right? But here’s where it gets interesting…what happens when you throw the pace of change into this process?
For many of the organisations that we are working with, the external environment is not stable – it’s constantly evolving, which in turn means that their internal environments are also in a constant state of flux. A conventional approach to planning that produces a 2 / 3 / 5 year strategic plan does not work in a situation like this. In this type of environment real time strategic planning that supports the process of ongoing ‘tweaks’ to the plan needs to occur. Practically, this looks like a process where the vision and value statements are developed and then the executive team is involved in an ongoing iterative process of identifying and analysing internal strengths and weaknesses, along with external threats and opportunities and adjusting the strategies and the action plans to contend or capitalise on these every 3 – 6 months.
Given the above, one of the other areas for which we are seeing high demand at the moment is in the alignment of goals and action plans to corporate strategy. Organisations often reach out to OTM for external assistance when they have hit an insurmountable obstacle. Invariably when we start working with them we find that the root of the obstacle is not in internal capability, it is simply that the organisation has not been able to clearly track the path from the ‘problem / solution’ back to a specific strategy or goal – i.e. there is no alignment with the corporate strategic plan. This means one of two things – the Corporate Strategic Plan needs updating, or the Operational Plan they are trying to implement is failing because it is actually not feasible or viable for the organisation. Finding out which one is an illuminating process for all.
Strategic Planning, like so many other business processes, is not a one size fits all approach. If you are finding that your strategic planning process is becoming a ‘tick box’ for the Board rather than a tactical practice that informs the growth of your organisation it might be time to rework the process.