Strategy is future-oriented: there can be no strategy without consideration of the future and the future is fraught with uncertainty without a good strategy.
How does this impact the process of strategic planning in business?
Many organizations do not set goals beyond 2 – 3 years; anything more is too uncertain. There was a time when it was standard thinking to plan for 5 – 7 years. The author of a 2014 online article in Forbes suggested strategic planning might actually be dead. Rick Smith’s comments were well thought out, considering many realities that today’s business leaders face such as disruptive technology, competition, and access to employees. It leads to the larger question: should we encourage the abandonment of strategic planning, or do we prepare for the possibility that some of what we are planning for might be shorter term or subject to change?
Let’s look at the two choices.
Option One – Be Nimble
If strategic planning is actually dead, then an organization would presumably require:
- a nimble, responsive management team
- a rock solid method of communicating expectations to those staff expected to execute on the identified short term priorities
- the ability to change on the fly
The organization would certainly need a staffing plan that allowed them to hire the best and brightest.
Overall, this option reminds me of the book, Lord of the Flies, where a group of boys is marooned on an island with no adults and mayhem ensues.
Option Two – Strategy
The key benefit of Option Two is the alignment of the organization to common goals. This option assumes that strategic planning is still relevant and important, but recognizes that market shifts can require course changes. It is not a new concept – all good strategic plans are regularly reviewed and updated as required.
In some ways, both views are more similar than different. Both require:
- Clear direction, if only for the short term
- Engaged employees who are committed to the success of the organization
- Great communication practices to ensure employees have a clear understanding of what the organization wishes to accomplish and how they can contribute to that success
Perhaps strategy isn’t dead at all; the fundamentals are all still there, but in today’s world we’re dealing with different constraints – shorter timelines, tighter labour markets, and more communication technology, although not necessarily better communication. These are the challenges for leaders today and tomorrow to overcome when they set a strategic course for their businesses.
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