Strategic Planning

What’s the Most Difficult Part of a Strategic Plan?

Ensuring the implementation of a strategic plan is a ‘whole of organisation’
and beyond experience will make the process infinitely easier.

What is the hardest part of strategic planning? The answer to that is clearly its implementation. But making the process a ‘whole of organisation’ experience can ensure buy-in and leadership across the business. Bringing in other stakeholders including both suppliers and customers, can further enrich the process.

My many years’ experience working in change management and senior leadership roles has reinforced one important lesson about strategic planning: when you develop your strategy, you need to consider all aspects of your business. It is not enough to involve only those parts of your business that are directly aligned with your strategic goals.

In the mix of people, policy and process, it may be that support systems, such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), finance and HR are placing indirect constraints and risks to your goals.

Conversely, while your core operations may be sound, the support systems may be the ones to offer the real potential to gain an edge.

A good strategic plan will help you lead your business forward, but it also needs good leadership. To me a key strength of the Haines process is that leadership at all levels is a cornerstone. This enables all levels of the organisation to engage with developing the strategy.

While any strategy must be led, such leadership is not the exclusive responsibility of those in formal leadership positions. As Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs is often quoted as saying: ‘it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people and they tell us what to do’.

This approach in no way abrogates the responsibilities of management. As I previously stated, implementation is the hard part ­– something management is always ultimately responsible for.

It also dovetails nicely with perhaps one of the stronger approaches to leadership, the ‘leader-follower’ model based on the hypothesis that suggests natural leaders arise due to knowledge and experience of a given task. In other words, all other skills being equal, let those suited to the task lead the task.

I had a friend recently recount a conversation with a US Navy fighter pilot, who in his spare time flew gliders because it was the only other way he could feel the ‘whole of body experience’ that a carrier deck landing entailed. Strategic planning for any organisation should be the same – a ‘whole of organisation’ experience.

About the Author:

Jason Thomas is the Founder of de Montaigne Strategic Planning, which provides robust strategic planning and training services to small to medium-sized enterprises, not-for-profit organisations and government departments.

He has over 30 years’ experience in senior leadership, operational and planning roles across the military, public and private sectors. In addition, Jason holds numerous degrees and qualifications including Gold Mastery Certification with the Haines Centre for Strategic Management.