It is common knowledge that all great organizations need a strategic plan, but did you ever stop to ask why?
One of the problems with “common knowledge” is that we accept it blindly and fail to question its suppositions. Why do you need a strategic plan anyway?
Are you hoping for a set of pre-set decisions to plan the next three years? Do you need a comprehensive plan to communicate to donors, lenders, or stakeholders? Or, are you hoping to produce a set of integrated decisions to coordinate the whole of your organization?
The ugly truth about strategic plans is that academic research has never been able to validate their efficacy. How is that for a sobering truth?
Now, before you abandon plans for your next strategic plan, let me offer three compelling reasons for engaging in a strategic planning process.
- Re-assessing Your Environment – a well-planned Strategic Plan should include a thoroughgoing environmental scan. Too few organizations engage in a concerted process of assessing their context. Given the rapidity of change in our contemporary world this seems a foolish leadership fail.
- Focus – every organization faces succumbing to “mission creep”, that pernicious temptation to do too much and lose focus on what’s important. A good strategic planning process should be designed to maximize organizational focus. This means a superior plan will include what is going to be phased out as much as it includes new initiatives.
- Team Alignment – cognitive scientists are making striking breakthroughs in understanding the importance of shared mental models to team performance. Going through a process expressly designed to create such shared mental models on the way to a cohesive strategic plan will produce an aligned team capable of stunning success.
If you are contemplating your next strategic plan, give careful consideration beyond “common knowledge” to these three key goals and you will set your organization up for a great future.