We have thought very hard about the subject of strategic planning for many years. We have come to the conclusion that there is no simple answer explaining the distinction between the ongoing planning of a business and a strategic analysis. It is not one sentence. It is a matter of degree, a matter of rigor, a matter of time frame, and a matter of dissolving constraints. Perhaps more than anything, it is the challenge of addressing the big questions, the types of questions that do, in fact, affect the status quo. Perhaps more than anything, strategic planning is the proactive management of material change, not simply the incrementalism of a going forward approach.
Not every business is ready to take on all of the key elements that drive strategy. In what follows, we attempt to discuss a handful of subjects that apply to every company. These subjects are the ones that have helped shape our 11 Questions approach. Understanding these can help you and your company address whether it is prepared to engage in this type of inquiry.
The Purpose of Strategic Planning
All companies are obligated to look into the future. For all, they want to know:
- Are our current markets expanding or contracting?
- Are products more or less competitive?
- Are we becoming more efficient in product delivery and management, or are we becoming less efficient?
- What is the position of our products on the product life cycle curve?
- Do we have any new ideas?
- Can we improve on our leadership model?
Really? 11 Questions?
The eleven questions provide a window into almost every critical sector of a company. The questions are all inclusive. They cover the waterfront of corporate interest.
Your guys agree.
Each touches on a mission critical component of the company, ultimately allowing for a full audit of the company – products, selling, technology, human resources, marketing, finance, etc.
Not only will you achieve your traditional strategic planning effort goals, this method enhances that substantially. It gives you a chance to identify new leaders, and a greater certainty with regard to who are the real content leaders in the company. It forces the leadership to acknowledge real problems, challenges and opportunities, and start building cross team support for the activities that will surely come. This process builds commitment for the end state.
The very first round of this model enables you to get at immediate solutions for some set of problems and associated solutions that, for what ever reason, the organization had not been stepping up to.
Ultimately, the exercise builds internal support.
This is Different
There are obviously a number of ways one could embark on such an effort, but most companies engage high quality consulting companies who provide conventional consulting support for a planning effort.
We strongly believe that conventional planning approaches do not reliably result in the changes drawn from the planning activities. Instead, planning needs to be much more crisp and to the point. Your organization’s leaders and smartest people in a company need to be the primary participants in the process, instead of potentially being the reluctant recipients of a plan perhaps created by outside consultants.
So, yes, this is different. By design.