Strategic Planning may be an enigma to some, a pain to others, and others may view it as a necessary evil. Still others believe that there is only one-way to do strategic planning and become paralyzed seeking out that silver bullet. It may help to understand that strategic planning is a process that involves the synthesis of creativity, imagination, intuition, and of course, planning. Planning incorporates the process of analysis. Creativity and imagination never follow just one path. Neither does strategic planning. Strategic planning plays one role. However, strategic thinking is quite different.
Implementing strategic planning propels an organization’s strategies into action. Strategic thinking looks at the present and examines trends in order to formalize strategies for the future. Strategic thinking is far more spontaneous than strategic planning. Organizations would do well to cultivate a culture of strategic thinkers. Strategic thinkers help keep the organization on the cutting edge of discovery, developing new opportunities and constantly challenging the status quo. Still, strategic planning or strategic thinkers do not guarantee the longevity of any organization. Think of all the organizations that no longer exist due to mergers, acquisitions, or poor management. One might wonder where WorldCom, Enron, Bear Stearns, or Wachovia might be if strategic planning had been in place. Doing strategic planning well is the secret to its success.
Many organizations might conduct strategic planning and then that plan just sits on a shelf gathering dust. The consensus becomes, we tried strategic planning, but it doesn’t work. A car doesn’t work either, if you don’t fill it with gas, start the engine and push the pedal. To help ensure success with such an important project, ensure that your organization is ready for strategic planning, prepare your executive staff for strategic planning and thinking competencies and finally, be sure the organization has an environment that is conducive to strategic planning and thinking. Moreover, strategic planning is not to be thought of as a once and you’re done project.
In volatile times such as these, strategic planning may require an annual review. Regardless of the economy, it would seem that every two years would be a good idea. Furthermore, strategic thinking would thrive in such environments and staying on top of trends would become almost routine. Indeed, once is not enough for strategic planning. The economy, technology, markets and society change at too rapid a pace for any organization to consider that one strategic plan fits every annual drop of the crystal ball in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Yes, even the mission statement may require modification. However, even through modification, the organization’s basic beliefs and philosophy are maintained.