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Strategic Planning in a Vacuum
We all know that successful strategic planning is the result of careful preparation, but should the planning exercise itself be treated as an executive level project? Should the brains of the organization lock themselves in a room and emerge with the plan that will lead the organization into the future? Is there a better, more sustainable way to have strategy defined and executed throughout the organization?
I would argue that always knowing the 'who', 'what', 'when' and 'how' of current, as is, day-to-day functions of an organization is the only way to effectively devise and implement a strategy. After all, if the people in an organization aren't looking for a better way to help the organization succeed then the implementation of whatever is not going to be embraced and the plan is going to fail.
So how does a strategic planning process live and breathe, understand the 'who', 'what', 'when' and 'how', let's call them people, process, and tools (often technology), and orchestrate the strategies that will help the organization become more efficient and competitive going forward?
Always Know Your People
The first step is to understand the people in an organization, the thinkers (management) and the doers (the people that actually do the work). This can be done by treating the people like customers and consistently polling and surveying them with regards to processes and technologies as well as the work environment. Having a workplace with Baby Boomers, GenX-ers, and GenY-ers will result in very different process, technology, and environment preferences. The speed at which change can be adopted by different people varies as well.
Processes Should Always Improve but Keep Some Control
This should be one of the more controversial aspects of Strategic Planning. In my experiences with clients implementing process improvements, custom applications, ERP, CRM, HRIS, IT, or any other large change initiative, there needs to be attention devoted to capturing business processes and maintaining that definition for continued control.
However, process definition should not mean that people should not deviate from a defined process if they have found a better way to do things. If that's the case the process model (workflow, process map, model, etc.) should be flexible enough to be updated with the change and have the change communicated to all impacted suppliers and customers to the process. There is no need to wait for the next project or strategic session to make an improvement. Having a rapid method in place to embrace change will create an environment familiar with adopting change and therefore make it easier when significant changes are introduced as part of a Strategic Planning process. These are quick wins that your strategy can take credit for; after-all implementing this new way of being adaptive is a strategy in itself.
About that Strategic Plan
Getting Strategic Planning on the level of people and processes and being familiar with the tools in place will get alignment and understanding among strategic planners, various units and geographies on how things currently operate. In very large organizations, many managers and key stakeholders do not have a big-picture view of 'who', 'what', 'when' and 'how' things are getting done. Understanding people, process and technology will help develop clarity on what is working well and what is broken within the operating environment and this will create the roadmap for what the Strategic Plan should address.
Knowing your people, processes and technologies will help your Strategic Plan deliver tangible and visible benefits. Your people have told you what they need, so determining how you will measure success should be simple and measurable.
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