Both Strategy Formulation And Strategy Implementation Are Aspects Of The Challenge of Strategic Planning – Are You Ready?

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The Challenge of Strategic Planning – Are You Ready?

You may have decided that your company needs a comprehensive, formal plan, but are you really up for the challenge? Just as important as your willingness to plan is your commitment to using the resources (time, creativity and money) needed to do it right. Good planning always includes important tools for implementation. You and your management team must commit to follow-through before committing to any time in the first planning meeting.

A recent article by Kerry Capell in BusinessWeek, How Britain Jumpstarts Design (October 3, 2007), describes a government-backed program to help small to medium-sized businesses empower their companies with innovation. The author narrates several different case studies where a company identifies, with some external help from the British Design Council, ways to update its products or make its company brand stand out from the crowd. There have been some brilliant and highly profitable success stories from the program.

Another interesting thing about this program is that the support of the Design Council is not just something that is given by the government. It is very competitive to get into the program. All company applications to the program are reviewed by a team of experts. No company is allowed into the program unless it has both the willingness and the ability to invest significant resources in the product or system design. In short, the Council does not want to spend its resources on helping the business with its creative planning activities unless the management team and ownership can demonstrate in advance that they will be able to follow through on the good ideas that come out of the process.

This same philosophy should apply to the way you think about launching your strategic planning program. A comprehensive business planning process is bound to help your team develop many new ideas that will help you change your organization for the better. The implementation of these ideas will require management time and expertise (at the very least) and, in many cases, capital resources as well.

It’s easy to dismiss strategic planning and intellectually entertaining discussions about markets, customers, competitors, capabilities, etc. etc. In most cases, it is fun and exciting to start the journey of exploring your business with the tools of good planning. the process. It can be very expensive if you are not willing to complete the journey with the necessary tools to achieve your strategic vision.

One of my clients learned this lesson the hard way. After completing the first two phases of Simple Strategic Planning (Business Analysis and Strategy Development), the management team believed that their products and services were game-changing entries in the market. They all agreed that they could triple the size of the business in the next 2 years. It became clear that the selected business building projects required capital. At the beginning of the third phase, Implementation of the Plan, the investor informs the group that they will not entertain significant debts or share ownership as a way to implement their operational plans. All growth will be self-supporting through cash flows. It was clear to all team members that their aggressive growth plans would be resource hungry and would take at least twice as long to achieve. This was so discouraging to the management team that two talented members left the company within the next six months — a huge loss of executive experience and business knowledge!

This is just one example of the negative impact that a lack of commitment to strategic planning can have. There are many other stories of companies that made a great strategy and then suffered because their plans were not well supported. Before you begin your strategic planning efforts, make sure you have the tools and determination to implement your big ideas.

Copyright 2007 by The Simple Planning Center, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan

reprint permission granted with full attribution

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