Strategic planning is important for any successful organization. Almost every company I have come in contact with has done some form of strategic planning. The formats can vary, but most planning sessions involve bringing in key personnel to help formulate company goals and strategies. Quite often strategic planning becomes an annual event in which managers get together off site and come up with mission statements, long term goals, and strategies to help them get there. They can spend several days coming up with these plans and may even write everything down in notebooks that everyone can leave with and use the rest of the year. The problem that I have seen is that most of these books stay on a shelve all year and when they get back together the next year they find that they are still dealing with the same issues they were the year before.
So what is missing from these plans? Companies do not spend the time and money on these planning sessions with the intention of having them be ineffective. The problem with most of these plans is that they do not leave with any specific actions for people to do now.
Company leaders need to realize that planning is not an event, it is a process. If it is an event, everyone gets fired up over two to three days, but after they are back in the real world they are not doing anything different. In a month or two they cannot even remember what came out of the event.
Strategic planning is not a futile effort; it is just that in most cases companies are neglecting a crucial element. Once companies have developed their goals and strategies they must come up with specific actions that specific people are responsible for within the next thirty days. People commit to completing their assigned tasks before the initial planning session is completed.
Once this is done the other important key in making planning a process is to have scheduled follow up meetings after the initial session. Follow up meetings should be held monthly and consist of reporting on the status of actions committed to in the previous month. Corrective action is agreed upon for actions not completed, and where actions have been completed, new action items are committed to. Experience has shown that the first follow up meeting is a little awkward, but by the second or third follow up everyone gets used to the process.
The result is that things start getting accomplished. People get used to the fact that everyone will be held accountable for the actions that they have committed to. Meetings that used to take several hours with little to show for the time spent are now taking less time with results being seen by all participants. More critical actions are being accomplished and the company is accomplishing their goals.
I have seen companies go from being frustrated that they continually wrestle with the same issues where nothing seems to be getting accomplished to becoming a company that is energized by the fact that they are seeing themselves getting results every month.
Has your company realized that planning is not an event, it is a process?