written by Nacho De Marco
There’s a lot to be said about strategic planning. That the resulting plan requires multiple adjustments while moving forward. That it sidelines creativity. That it fails to anticipate obstacles. That, in short, it’s not worthy enough to go through all the trouble of actually planning an in-depth strategy.
Yet strategic planning is still a highly valuable asset when doing business. Even when you can’t come up with a flawless plan or when you have to sacrifice certain perspectives, having a strategy in place is always the best course of action. Why? Because it helps with task prioritization, schedule definition, performance analysis, overall management and budgeting.
I think that people criticizing strategic planning forget how useful it can be, even for all its faults and flaws. That’s why I wanted to take a look at some of the obstacles that might appear when planning strategically. These obstacles might as well be the reasons why some people see strategic planning as a waste of time: If you don’t know your way around them, your planning is going to fail.
That’s why I’m outlining four of the biggest obstacles to strategic planning below and how you can overcome them.
1. Excessive Focus On Budget
Forgive me if I discuss money first, but I’m fairly certain that a lot of executives treat it as if it was the only thing that mattered when making plans. Thinking like that will quickly get you stuck. In fact, starting the planning process by discussing money first can become an insurmountable obstacle. How come? By making it all about money, you subject the whole project to costs, limiting the possibilities in a significant way.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t factor in money when planning strategies—that’s impossible. What I’m saying is that you should use your budget as just one more factor to consider and not the most decisive aspect of it all. True, you’ll have to face monetary constraints and meet revenue goals, but, ironically enough, the only way to get to those objectives and overcome those constraints is by planning strategies for growth.
2. Lack Of Alignment
Another huge obstacle executives face when planning strategies is when the team doesn’t align behind the proposed roadmap or doesn’t understand the tasks or objectives ahead. Sounds implausible? It happens more often than you think. That’s especially true in companies that have a rigid vertical hierarchy, as executives in these businesses often impose their decisions from the top down.
Naturally, employees will likely show friction with imposed strategies, leading to a lack of alignment. That’s why you need to make them a part of your strategic planning. By including team members’ feedback in your plan definition, you’ll have valuable input to better understand your operations, challenges, opportunities and potential outcomes.
3. Lack Of Ownership
Funnily enough, seeking alignment might lead you to a new obstacle: having too many cooks in the kitchen. By that I mean having too many people voicing opinions but no one actually leading the plan’s execution. What’s more, without that owner, the plan might not even make it to a final form, as too many ideas from different stakeholders can lead to a cross-functional mishmash of desires.
But even if you do end up with a proper plan, you won’t take it anywhere without someone at the helm. That means you’ll need to define who will spearhead the plan and be responsible for its execution. It doesn’t have to be a single person, mind you: You can appoint different people to own different parts of the plan. By doing that, you can guarantee that the person in charge at any given moment is the most suited for it given their expertise and experience.
4. Wrong Planning Approach
There’s a common misconception when it comes to strategic planning. Since the objective is to get an actionable plan, people in charge of strategic planning might think the best result is to have a plan as detailed as possible. Unfortunately, that’s the wrong way to go about it. If you expect the resulting strategy to cover every potential scenario, challenge and disruption, you’ll end up feeling disappointed.
Instead of aiming for that utopic plan, you should devise a roadmap that details essential milestones, priority tasks, affected team members, measurable KPIs and objectives (be them deliverables or intangible goals). Seen like that, a plan (and the related contingency plans that might fork from it) is more flexible, as you define what you expect to achieve with your strategy but allow the day-to-day activities to define the path in between.
Leveraging A Strategic Planning Mindset
I think that one of the most important things to keep in mind when dealing with strategic planning is the mindset you adopt when going in. If you still look at it in disbelief or focus on failed past experiences when planning strategically, you’re bound to fail. That’s because you’re undermining the potential (and real!) value hidden within strategic planning.
What I mean is that you need to adopt a positive mindset about it. You need to believe in what strategic planning can provide you while being realistic about what it can’t offer you. That’s key to unlocking the real value in the process.
So, on one hand, you need to put the benefits of strategic planning front and center in a way that can get everyone in your company on board. On the other hand, you need to be real about the limits of strategic planning: You’ll have to make adjustments on the go. By balancing both of these things, you’ll be more likely to succeed in your quest to create an actionable plan that can get your company where you want to go.
originally published by Forbes