Ten Dangerous Myths About Strategic Planning

I bumped into this terrific article in Mike Johnson’s sales newsletter (Mike runs Sales Solutions) by Rick Seaman of Strategy Implementation and was glad when Rick consented to me republishing it here on my weblog…
Owners of small businesses often seem to believe in myths surrounding the subject of strategic planning and implementation, myths that can prove dangerous to the health of the organization and their personal goals.� (The �myths� in quotation marks are actual statements from CEO�s.� The rest were unstated but implied by their actions.)
Myth #1: �We don�t need a strategic plan!�
The truth is that every organization needs some form of plan to guide its actions during turbulent market conditions or it will simply respond to, and be controlled by, events outside the firm.� It is just too easy to �drift off course� in a chaotic tactical environment.

Myth #2: Strategic planning can only be done at a resort.
Strategic planning is serious and shouldn�t be equated with a vacation.� Everyone can play golf on their own time.� All you need for a productive process is a meeting room at a local hotel or conference center.
Myth #3: �It interferes with our real jobs.�
Strategic planning is arguably the most important part of your job because it can determine the effectiveness of all the rest of your efforts.
Myth #4: �We can do it without any help.�
It is extremely difficult to both participate in and facilitate the same meeting.� There is an almost irresistible urge to problem solve on detailed issues and therefore lose track of the big picture.
Myth #5: Planning will predict the future.
Planning can reduce risk, but not eliminate it.� It is easy to forget that any plan is a set of actions based on an assumption of how the future will unfold.� Exploring alternative futures, and the actions needed under those conditions, improves your ability to respond to whatever happens.
Myth #6: Planning is done when the retreat is over.
Planning is a process, not an event.� If it is not a continued, integral component of the management of your firm, it is indeed a waste of time.
Myth #7: The plan is a binder on a shelf.
Documentation is necessary but the real benefit of a good plan is the mental framework for problem solving that it provides to employees.� A strategic plan is really a way of thinking about the business, and it should change the way everyone goes about their job.
Myth #8: The plan will automatically produce results.
Without frequent, systematic oversight and review by you and the management team, there will be little implementation and the plan reduced to just a set of words.
Myth #9: If the CEO says it, it will happen.
Actual execution of any plan only takes place when employees change their behavior to comply with the requirements of the plan.� To implement the plan, employees must understand it and be willing to make the necessary changes to how they go about their individual jobs.�
Myth #10: �The plan is too confidential to be shared with regular employees.�
See Myth #9.� Even the best strategic plan will never produce the desired results if the people who have to implement it don�t know what it is.
A well thought out, structured strategic plan executed by the employees is your best protection against the threat of changing market conditions, and the best tool for achieving your personal goals for the business.
Author Rick Seaman is President of Strategy Implementation, Inc., a management consulting firm that helps small companies align their strategy and culture with market conditions.� He has a BS degree from the U. S. Naval Academy and an MBA from Stanford University, and can be reached at StrategyImplementation.com.

9 comments on “Ten Dangerous Myths About Strategic Planning

  1. I completely agree that organizations need a clear, simple and focused strategy. Strategic planning, however, is dead and engaging in it is a total waste of time. There is a big difference between developing a strategy and the self-flagellating experience of strategic planning. I disagree vehemently with the advice above because it encourages organizations to pursue an approach that is being discredited further with each passing day.

  2. I appear to have touched a nerve with Jeff De Cagna. Such was not my intent. The myths I cite are based on my own experience with the CEO’s and senior staffs of the small companies I have as clients. I am a bit puzzled by Jeff’s stipulation that developing a strategy is worthwhile but strategic planning is a waste of time.
    My guess is that he has experienced some bad approaches to strategic planning, of which there are many, and the term strategic planning conjures up painful or frustrating memories. Over the past 35 years I, too, have been subjected to a number of excrutiatingly bad ones. One of the reasons I started my business was to offer a solution to that problem.
    Jeff agrees that you need to develop a strategy, and would probably agree that all markets are constantly changing, so I assume he would agree that the strategy needs to be perioddically reviewed and perhaps updated based on changes to market conditions. The process for doing this can be efficient and effective, or it can be the opposite, but in my experience it is generally called strategic planning.

  3. It is indeed interesting to reflect on the declining status of strategic planning.
    I spent the early part of my career in Shell involved in Strategic Planning and saw first hand the insights and competitive advantages it can deliver if done well. Since then I have always used the building blocks of good planning – scenarios (understanding the past and present – and identifying the possible futures), competitive positioning (understanding your company’s competitive position and the distinctive competencies – or lack of them – that have led to that position) and enVisioning (agreeing – across the management team/company the place where you want to get to )- to help run the businesses I have been involved with. These have included an energy new entrant in the UK where understanding the uncertainties facing us gave us the insight to successfully go from an idea to over 500,000 customers in a couple of years.
    So I am an advocate of strategic planning – but I am also a witness to its declining popularity. The Strategic Planning Society in the UK even went bust – although re-incarnated now.
    Why is this?
    It seems axiomatic to me that in an uncertain world – understanding uncertainty and planning for possibilities is an absolute necessity. However, strategic planning seems to have become misunderstood as the practice of predicting the future – nothing could be further from the truth. As Peter Drucker said it is all about deciding what you need to do today to be able to manage the alternative futures that may come about (or similar words). The sentiment has stuck with me for over 20 years.

  4. I liked the post – does a good job exposing some common myths. I think of a strategic plan when its functioning best, as a set of assumptions about how to drive growth. Nothing more, nothing less. Assumptions that need resourcing, tracking and testing to verify if they prove accurate.
    Our experience is that you also need a technology to support the link between strategic planning and execution.
    I would also like to contact Rick, but notice that the site StrategicImplementation.com is down. Do you have a current email address for him?
    Rodney Brim, CEO

  5. Over the past 10 years I have conducted strategic planning workshops with close to 10,000 CEOs and their management. In the majority of cases they arrived believing this could be a waste of time. By the end of the 21/2 hour workshop they rated the process between 90 and 100% for ‘usefullness’ and 100% recommended it to others. Its called the 60 Minute Strategic Plan. All enterprise leaders need plans, writing them reduces the uncertainty about the leaders expectations and a simplified process allows for adjustment when the inevitable changes occur or assumptions are challened.

  6. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without Strategy is the noise before defeat.” — wise ole Chinese strategist
    Whether you get your strategy from Strategic Planning or a Cracker Jack box, you better have one. Tactical superiority is no guarantee of success.

  7. I loved this posting. Especially MYTH#8. All too often people assume that the work will do itself and the desired change is guaranteed. Over the years I have witnessed many a strategic plans gone awry due to a lack of ownership by the top management.

  8. The myths are good to know for many people who are in business. We have always looked at strategic planning as a complicated top managers thing, not for the other staffs. The myths have put real facts on the table and now we know strategic planning is not a fancy document in the CEO drawers and only accessible to management team, but is for every employee. Thanks for providing us with these myths.

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