Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ground the Strategic Plan in Realism

A good strategic plan is grounded in realism and born of imagination. An organization's efforts are wasted in formulating a strategic plan if they do not take the necessary, and often painful, first steps of understanding fully who we are, what we do, how well we do what we say we do, and the current environment in which we are operating on a local, regional, national and global level. You also have to ask, do future customers want what we do, how we do it? And, you best get real in your answers. Only when you bring an honest assessment of these elements to the planning table are you able to design a way forward. Knocking the sugar-coating from the environment and actually objectively quantifying your current state of operations and affairs is critical to planning for your future.

Using a completely different set of skills, planning for the future requires imagination and fancy, as well as critical thinking abilities. You must be able to imagine what it will take for your organization to find alignment with the world as it will be in 6 months to two or three years from now. Someone on your team must be able to see the future that you will plan to create. You must see it whole and work backwards from there to fill in the action steps and time table. If you take the opposite approach and try to build the future by extending from where you are now, you have perpetuated, very logically, the status quo. Unless you can argue convincingly that the status quo is relevant in the changed and ever-changing environment of the future, your logical efforts are suicide.

Forget about the staid and steady 3 to 5 year strategic plan that is neat and laid out and incrementally wise because market forces do not shower that sort of stability on anybody in any industry anymore. For a modern, viable, realistic strategic plan for the 21st century, know from the onset that it must be dynamic and flexible, pliable and expandable in order for your organization to respond to changes in your industry, your customer base, the economy, technology, etc, etc.

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