10 Reasons Why Your Strategic Plan Was Built to Fail

After talking to clients about their past experiences with status quo strategic planning approaches, we’ve identified 10 pitfalls that occur all too often.


Effective strategic planning helps companies establish organizational alignment and realize sustainable long-term growth. And yet, many planning processes feel mechanical and only engage select senior leaders. As a result, many organizations struggle to define ambitious growth goals or gain the alignment required to successfully action their plan.

We’ve seen several challenges arise when an organization adopts a “status quo” strategic planning process that does not align with its context and realities. Standard approaches often do not meaningfully account for the organization’s size and breadth of stakeholders, historical ability to execute at speed, and risk appetite. Nor do many standard approaches properly consider how market dynamics could change during the planning horizon. This leads to stagnant, poorly bought-into plans that are not adaptive to change or disruption (constants in today’s business world).

A status quo strategic planning approach is especially troublesome for complex multi-stakeholder organizations. Organizations that have historically moved at a slower pace require an approach that considers and embraces their unique needs. Failure to adapt a strategic planning approach and initiatives to an organization’s context results in limited growth, unmet targets, and misaligned expectations.

After talking to clients and critically analyzing standard strategic planning approaches, we identified ten core challenges that many organizations (especially large multi-stakeholder ones) may have with today’s more typical approaches:

Challenges That Standard Strategic Planning Processes Create

Underleveraged Leaders
Underleveraged Leaders

undefined role
Leaders aren’t purposefully engaged and roles to contribute aren’t clearly defined
no collaboration
Collaboration between the Board, Executives, and Senior and Middle Management is limited or, in some situations, non-existent
not engaged
Middle Management aren’t engaged when establishing the plan’s executional elements
little soak time
Leaders don’t have appropriate soak time, decreasing alignment and buy-in
strategy of subjective opinion
Strategy is based on a few leaders’ subjective (and sometimes disparate) opinions rather than an aligned-to fact base

Missed Opportunities
Missed Opportunities

incremental moves
Strategy discussions center around incremental moves; the environment and processes required to engage and push perceived boundaries are not present
more talking less action
Day 1 of implementation should be day 1 of implementation, not day 1 of socialization
misalignment
Misalignment around the organization’s real challenges and what ‘end-game’ success is
undefined KPI
The right KPIs and accountabilities for outcomes are not accurately defined
rigid stance
4 years is too long of a horizon; more frequent pulse checks on strategy are required to enable the correct strategic pivots

Many of these above stated issues stem from rigid processes that fail to build the organizational alignment that’s required for successful planning and execution.

In our work, we have found that a change management orientation to strategic planning enables ‘break out’ strategies by increasing: organizational alignment, broad stakeholder engagement, and the degree of transparency and candor required to identify both high impact opportunities and the ‘sacred cows’ that are impeding growth. This approach prioritizes long-term effectiveness and execution over the speed to getting through the writing process.

In our next article, we’ll further flesh out why we believe a change management orientation is critical to the development of engaging, growth-driving strategic plans, and the principles and tools that enable strong organizational alignment and actionable plans.


Authors

For more information, please contact:

Claude Ricks at cricks@level5strategy.com

Efram Lebovits at elebovits@level5strategy.com

James Hunter at jhunter@level5strategy.com

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