Creating successful corporate strategy is a constant struggle in today’s business environment of complexity, ever-changing priorities, and conflicting agendas. Yet when executives invest the required time and effort and resources to develop and advance a purposeful approach to strategic decision-making, they not only increase the potential of building a winning and viable business but also enjoy positive by product benefits including, employee conviction and empowerment.

No strategy, however dazzling and overpowering, can be successfully implemented without total acceptance of executives, employees, and valued stakeholders who know what they need to change, understand how and why they should change, and have the essential resources to drive the strategic process activities for both the short and long term.

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Through strategic planning, organizations anticipate success and failure scenarios before they occur and can take necessary actions to exploit or precautions to avoid them. A strong strategic plan empowers businesses to be proactive rather than merely reacting to opportunity and problem situations as they arise. Being proactive supports the overall organizational goal to keep up with the ever-changing trends, emerging technologies, and regulatory compliance to obtain or maintain a competitive advantage.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
Michael Porter

Formulating winning strategies involves a journey of the executive team and select employees to reexamine their fundamental and deeply-held beliefs and insights about the organization’s past and future state. These activities generally provoke highly-emotional conversations and squabbles to arrive at consensus for creation of future strategic directions and plans. Without these obligatory skirmishes, supported with brainstorming and decision-making exercises, the end result may be a set of rubber-stamped strategies whose failings are easily exposed during implementation or later, by savvy market competitors.

Forbes reported:
65% of organizations have an agreed-upon strategy.
14% of employees understand the organization’s strategy.
Less than 10% of all organizations successfully execute the strategy

Strategic Planning Red Lights

Strategic planning exercises typically are continually challenged by an array of conditions and situations that if handled correctly will make the difference between success and failure. A list of the most critical ‘Red Lights’ are outlined below:

LEADERSHIP

Uncertain whether leadership truly believes in the plan!

If the strategic plan is viewed as mission-critical by the executive team, it should help and successfully drive and enable change within the organization. Without leadership demonstrated real and continual commitment with positive behaviors that model the significance and criticality of support, employees will mirror the same level of non-commitment.

STRATEGIC PLANNING HISTORY

Previous strategic planning exercises were fruitless and unproductive!

Have past strategic exercises proved successful? Hard to overcome and often over-looked by is the ingrained organizational culture and personality created by past actions, or inactions, which can usually adversely influence the executive group mindset at all points in the planning exercise.

STRATEGIC ALIGNMENT

Misalignment with current organizational trends, opportunities, and issues!

Organizations habitually do not complete all groundwork necessary to copiously understand the current ‘As-Is’ and ‘To-Be’ business and support operating states. How can leadership recognize what needs to change if current and future conditions are not consensus reference points?

FOCUS

If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority!

Too many strategic goals hinder the overall planning effort. Generally, in these situations the organization’s finite resources are diluted across excessive initiatives and thus hinder achieving the projected financial and non-financial outcomes.

ANALYSIS

The planning effort stalls or becomes mired in indecision by Paralysis by Analysis!

Paralysis by Analysis is the state of over-analyzing or over-thinking so that decisions are never taken or significantly delayed. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options.

CHANGE

Inability or unwillingness to change!

Those employees that resist change and cannot adapt typically sabotage a planning exercise with change implications. In psychology, the concept of resistance to change refers to people experiencing an emotional anxiety caused by the prospect of a transformation or change that is taking place.

FOLLOW-UP

Strategic plan lacks time-certain follow-up milestones and designated roles and responsibility.

The view that strategic plan initiatives are nothing more than top management’s ‘wish list’ is often recognized by a lack of an effective formal organizational structure, process and/or governance. If there is no formal follow-up with designated employees for strategic plan implementation deliverables, how serious is the strategic planning?

AWARENESS

Failure to effectively communicate the plan to all organizational stakeholders!

If the organization universe is unaware of the new strategy and associated initiatives and plans, how will the strategy be successfully deployed and affect and drive change? Communication is the key goal in strategic planning progressing from the development to successful implementation phases!

UNDERSTANDING

Lack of clarity regarding what, who or how strategic changes will be implemented!

Without detailed specifics and clarification on intended changes and value-add benefits, the planning effort is doomed to failure as a waste of time. If strategic initiatives are viewed as a trivial pursuit, it will be problematic to positively motivate employees to build the ‘sense of urgency’ necessary to implement the necessary changes and realize projected benefits.

ON-GOING SUPPORT

Failure to provide continual support!

Once the plan is rolled-out and implemented, employees need to understand the resources required to support the plan. Without continual support, employees likely will see the plan as just another “fire and forget” effort they can wait out.

Strategy Development Building Block Framework

Successful corporate strategy is created and continually nurtured and changed within a formalized Strategic Building Block Framework.

The questions that initiate creation of the framework and are continually refreshed during the strategy life cycle include:

  1. What is our corporate culture and personality?
  2. Where and how do we make money in the marketplace?
  3. What are our current weaknesses and threats to success?
  4. What are our current strengths and opportunities?
  5. What future do we need to plan for?
  6. What are the potential pathways to success?
  7. What strategic initiatives should be undertaken?
  8. What mission-critical decisions should be taken?
  9. How do we drive successful change?
  10. How do we adapt and learn?
  11. How do we continually improve our institutional memory?
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
Jack Welch