Do you really have a strategy?

If you have found it difficult to implement your strategic plan and achieve the intended outcomes, you are not alone.   It is not unusual to struggle with the best way to create a plan, but creating it is not the real challenge; the real challenge is getting results.

What are other companies doing?

Take a step back, and lets figure out how the planning you do today compares with others.  According to a survey by McKinsey of public companies, most of them create 2-3 year plans (45%) with the second most common time frame being 4-5 years (36%).  While smaller, privately held companies surveyed by Reynolds Consulting, LLC, reported the same likelihood of a 2-3 year focus (47%), the second most likely time frame was one year (23%).

Is it a strategic plan, or an operating plan?

In addition, these same smaller companies reported completing a plan in the last 12 months, with the largest segment of them reviewing the plan annually.  The numbers suggest that a fair number of smaller businesses aren’t really doing a strategic plan, but rather a one year operating plan…not the same at all.  Even more disturbing are the executional “failure” rates if applied to one-year basic operational plans.

What grade would you give your plan?

Just answer this question:  assuming you have completed a strategic growth plan in the last three years, what grade would you give it?  If you are like the 65% of companies who answered this question in our survey, you gave it a “B”.  A “B” is a popular grade as it implies a good job, but humbly suggests there is always room to improve.  Most of us like to believe we do a pretty good job at most things we do.  We like B’s.

Are you grading intent or outcome?

My next question would be if 65% of plans are “B”s, why do so many plans (70-90% depending on which study you believe) fail to be executed?  Is it possible we grade on intent and not outcome?

Is your strategy a good strategy?

In fact, it was recently reported by McKinsey that of the top ten classic questions that reveal whether a company has a good strategy, 65% of the companies can answer yes to only three of them.  Only 10% of companies can check seven or more.  This suggests a disconnect between what we think is a good plan and having a breakthrough growth plan that generates results. These are the ten questions from McKinsey:

  1. Will your strategy beat the market?
  2. Is your strategy granular about where to compete?
  3. Does your strategy tap a true source of advantage?
  4. Does your strategy put you ahead of trends?
  5. Does your strategy rest on privileged insights?
  6. Does your strategy embrace uncertainty?
  7. Does your strategy balance commitment and flexibility?
  8. Is your strategy contaminated by bias?
  9. Is there conviction to act on your strategy?
  10. Have you translated your strategy into an action plan?

It’s results that matter

The point is this: the plan doesn’t matter, the results do.  Yet to get great results, we need an integrated creative and actionable plan that keeps us and the entire leadership team focused on the outcome of breakthrough profitable growth.


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