Strategic planning can seem like an abstract process and a waste of time. In my experience, a lot of companies end up reviewing tons of PowerPoint decks and sandbagging financial projections without having the right conversations.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The objectives of any strategic planning process should be to:

  1. Understanding which problem you’re looking to solve, for which group of people;
  2. Create alignment around what success would look like for your organization and a sense of how you will get there;
  3. Prioritize and cut.

Throughout more than 20 client engagements I’ve found that the most successful strategic planning process have the following components:

  • A systematic process for developing the plan
  • Involving many different levels of staff in planning
  • A broad vision of the future (three to five years ahead)
  • Clear objectives as steps to achieve the vision for the future
  • Inbuilt measurement tools to demonstrate success
  • Analysis of threats and resources in the current context
  • Accountability and realistic timelines for achievement
  • Contingency planning
  • Communication and buy in among wide ranging stakeholders
  • Training and workforce development

Here are some common challenges I’ve seen:

  • Failure to focus on a major overarching vision
  • Failure to focus on a small number of goals
  • Unrealistic goals or predictions
  • Goals set arbitrarily
  • No shared vision of the organization
  • Lack of review of planned activities
  • A punitive review system
  • Lack of training or tools to help teams plan
  • Planning methods which are not systematically followed
  • Planning regarded as an event rather than an ongoing process
  • Using ad hoc methods rather than a systematic approach
  • Inadequate use of factual data
  • Over-analysis of past data
  • Over-reliance on a small number of individuals to develop plans
  • Failure to agree by consensus on critical measures of success
  • Lack of situational awareness
  • Focusing on planning and management for financial outcomes rather than recognizing that outcomes can only be as effective as the processes that deliver them.