Top Five Strategic Planning Mistakes

If you are preparing to create or review a strategic plan for your organization, avoid these common mistakes!

Developing a plan with only your team

While a good team is essential for carrying out plans, a group 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, and ideas from lower down the ladder in the organization.  Mix up the level of people that participate in the process.  To get new growth ideas, fresh thinking is required.

Skipping the data gathering stage

A plan can only be as good as the input that goes into it.  While none of us will get every assumption for the future right, having as much reliable data as possible on which to base our assumptions for the future improves the quality of the plan.  So before you schedule your first planning session,  gather good information about the marketplace, your customers, and your competitors.  Good information goes beyond anecdotal feedback from your customer.  Conduct surveys and search to uncover what you can improve.  Regardless of whether the facts are good or bad, knowing them will help you create a much better plan.

Failing to have a clear strategy

Too many times, the strategy is left out of the strategic plan.  A strategy is a high level “how”; it is how the organization will attain the vision.  Will the organization focus on low price, convenience, product excellence?  Having a lot of goals and activities without an overarching strategy leads everywhere and nowhere.

Keeping it vague and general

A plan–if it is to be successfully implemented–needs specificity.  Ponder what the outcome would have been if President Kennedy said “explore outer space” instead of “put a man on the moon”.  Would it have galvanized the nation in the same way?  Would it have accomplished the same outcomes?  Being specific helps energize the organization around a vision everyone can understand and share.  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?

Failing to create a plan of action

Strategic plans are a road map for the future.  If they stop at where an organization wants to go without figuring out how to get there, that would be like deciding to take a road trip from Kansas City to Omaha without knowing a route that will get you there.  No plan is 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 beause of one small step after another.  People are happy to walk the road if they know what road to take.

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