The Top Five Mistakes Made In Strategic Planning

Fall is the time many people think about creating a strategic plan or reviewing the one they have in place. Here are the top 5 mistakes commonly made. Forewarned is forearmed!

1. The facts: A plan can only be as good as the input that goes into it. Since planning requires corraling the future, by necessity it is based on assumption. While none of us will get every assumption right, having as much reliable data as possible on which to base assumptions improves the quality of the plan. Gather good information about the marketplace, your customers and your competitors. Don’t rely on antedotal feedback from your customers on how well you are doing. Conduct surveys and search to uncover what you can improve. Regardless of whether the facts or good or bad,  knowing them will help you create a much better plan.

2. The people: A strategic plan done by a small group of people who work together regularly may not challenge the status quo enough.  It is wise to include information or ideas gathered from outside the group–such as customer or vendor suggestions; to sprinkle in internal folks with a different perspective; or to mix up the level of people that participate. To get new growth ideas, fresh thinking is required.

3. Specificity: Most plans lack enough specifics. Think what the outcome would have been if JFK said “explore outer space” instead of “put a man on the moon”. Would we have galvanized the nation in the same way? Would we have accomplished the same outcomes? Being specific helps energize the organization around a vision they can understand. If the vision is too vague, it may not get done or if progress is made, how will one know when the goal is obtained?

4. Action plans: Strategic plans create a road map for the future. Too often they stop at where an organization wants to go without figuring out how to get there. No plan should be complete without a cascading set of activities that are assigned to specific people and plotted on a timeline. Before the plan is designated as complete, know what everyone will start doing differently tomorrow. A plan is accomplished because of one small step after another. People are happy to walk the road if they know what road to take.

5. The strategy: This sounds arcane but too many times, the strategy is left out of the plan. The strategy is the high level “how” of the plan; how it will accomplish the goals or attain the vision. Will the organization focus on low price, convenience, product excellence? Most plans contain lots of goals and activities but sometimes the entire strategy is missing. Oops!

If you need some pointers on how to create a plan that works, give me a call. I would be happy to help!

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