Lessons from a Strategic Planning Marathon

You may not have experienced a marathon before, but you don’t need to run 42.2km to know that it is hard work and many don’t make it. Stuart and I have been in the US with a client recently supporting them over a hard working week of strategic planning meetings.

We are excited for them as they declare their approach for the years and sharpen their plans for the next 12 months. We ourselves have been on a growth journey with strategic planning and a few key observations come out of this experience for us:

  1. 1. Investing in strategic planning each year is essential if you want to grow – Our client here clearly values the importance of the process. They have invested their leadership team’s own and our time and significant expense in making it happen. This decision in the short term produces fruit over the long term.

  2. Preparation for Strategic Planning is as important as the meeting itself – The time we committed in designing the process, deciding on the elements and preparing pre-work enabled us to achieve a whole lot more than we would ever have been able to accomplish otherwise.

  3. Consideration of a Multi-Dimensional Approach to Strategy – There is a risk that a business only focuses on it’s numbers in strategic planning. Sales, margins, costs. These are some of the outcomes to focus on in planning, however in addition to the financial, you would also want to plan well in areas such as the customer and product experience, the services and processes that support the business and also the people and cultural aspects that drive business results. You may know of these elements already if you’ve ever experienced the balanced scorecard approach to strategic planning.

  4. Be willing to tackle the hard conversations – It sounds obvious, but in an effort to keep the peace, it is often tempting to avoid the difficult conversations that need to happen. A messy meeting with honesty and rigour (and regard) is far more effective than one where you go through the motions of strategic planning but the relationship dynamics that can derail processes are neglected like ticking time bombs waiting to explode. These are potential blockers to achieving strategic results so deal with them effectively.

  5. The hard work starts when the meeting finishes – consider some of these quotes:

“Only 12% of companies successfully execute their strategy.” - Chris Zook, Profit from the Core

“On average, companies realize only 63% of their strategic plans.” - Turning Great Strategy into Great Performance

“Fully 90% of the results projected in most companies formal strategic plans never come to fruition.” - Henry Mintzberg - The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning

Ensuring you have allocated time at the end of the process to get crystal clear on what next is an excellent use of your strategic planning time. Developing meeting rhythms and accountabilities that will help to shape and align the operational and tactical plans of the business back to agreed strategy is essential to see the follow through need to realise your organisational objectives. This requires disciplined action from everyone involved.

A strategic plan is such an important document when done well. It can guide. It can inspire, It can align performance and results, it can help you say “no” to things that are unimportant or distracting. It can unify and give life to a future you might dream about.

As external facilitators of this process, we observed that our client team was able to immerse themselves fully into the process without having to be concerned about methodology.Oasis brings a unique rigour for the process and rich regard for the relationships