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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Why Strategic Planning Fails - Part 1

By: Tim Johnson

Gaining Senior Leadership Support

My father gave me an important piece of advice once that I will always remember.  “Always have the right tool for the job!”  Of course, I had to re-learn that lesson through the years a few times, but it really is good advice.  Most things that I have been successful at in my life have been because I did it the right way and using the right tools.  In the military they teach us to follow the process and meet the standards.  Of course, there are exceptions to any rule, but generally there are proven approaches available that help guide us to effectively and efficiently accomplishing what we undertake. 

At the Balanced Scorecard Institute, we have the "Nine Step Process" to building a strategic management system.  We believe in this approach and we have helped hundreds of clients develop comprehensive strategic plans with a management system that enables them to effectively execute strategy.  I myself have worked with over 80 organizations and have seen very successful strategic planning efforts and also those that were less so!  I wanted to share some observations as to where those that were not as successful went wrong along the way.  Over a series of seven blogs I wanted to share with you a handful of observations that could hold back a successful strategy initiative.  The seven that I will share are not meant to cover every potential pitfall, but they are definitely some of the most common fails I have seen in my experience.

The first pitfall has to do with not gaining Senior Leadership support before you begin the effort.  One of the first principles we stress in our Balanced Scorecard Professional Certification program is that if the leaders are not out in front of the strategic planning effort, it has zero chance of being successful.  I once had an executive approach me during our first break at a strategic planning offsite and tell me “I don’t like where this is going!  If I want them to have a strategy, then I will give them one!”  I was a bit taken aback and explained that if he was just to “pontificate” his strategy for his team to execute, then he would not be generating the needed buy-in to execute the plan later.  It would be his plan and his alone.  While he ended up eventually coming around, it could have been catastrophic if the key leader was not on board with the process and approach.  Additionally, not only should leaders be “okay” with developing strategy, they must be the biggest cheerleaders and talk about it in meetings, town halls, board meetings and any other opportunity they have to share the organization’s path forward.  Everyone needs to understand that the leaders completely support the effort, and the strategy will be executed.  Everyone involved must understand that there is “no turning back” and that its time to get on the bus!

If this pitfall sounds familiar, then you might be interested in our Balanced Scorecard Professional Certification course where leadership development, communications and change management action is discussed and becomes part of the strategy process or our Strategy Execution—Success Through Leadership workshop which addresses major obstacles and challenges faced in strategy efforts, and techniques on how to overcome them.

Over the next few blogs we will explore six additional potential pitfalls I have seen that hold organizations back from realizing the many benefits to developing a strategy and a supporting strategic management system.

You can read Part 2 here.

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Author: Tim Johnson
Tim Johnson

Tim JohnsonTim Johnson

Tim is a contributing author and BSI's former Director of Consulting with over 32 years of experience in management and professional services management consulting. Areas of expertise include strategic planning, portfolio management, performance measurement/management, project management and business process improvement.

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