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Avoiding the Pitffalls of Strategic Planning


Getting people focused and committed on implementing a strategy has never been more difficult as von Moltke said:

Strategic plans do not survive first contact with the enemy, and hence must be always open to revision.

In today’s competitive environment every action has many reactions that aren’t easily anticipated.  This is probably a major factor why 60% of change initiatives fail in North America and why something is going wrong with strategic planning.

One area that many executives either ignore or only pay lip service to are the cynicisms that previous initiatives strategic planning have accumulated in the organizations psyche. Here are some that you ignore at your peril

Crucial to understanding your people, as Peter Senge describes, is identifying  where people are on the apathy-commitment continuum. He identifies two areas of personal need that they want satisfied in their working lives:

  • personal benefit which comes from compensation, benefits, position, recognition, or other non-tangible benefits
  • personal sense of fulfillment of their life’s purpose, vision, or calling.

Leaders need to grasp how well each person’s attitude and their contribution is met directly by company goals or objectives. Then they can assess where people sit on the apathy/commitment continuum. Any misalignment between personal needs and your strategy will generate unproductive or  counterproductive behavior, if not actively managed


Getting Competitive in Turbulent Times


The avalanche of data at ever increasing speeds creates greater corporate ADHD. The result is decision making suffers from “24×7 news cycle” thinking where now is better than later. Competitively, it means increased market stress and rapid cycles of wicked problem solving. So, what can we learn about remaining competitive?

It’s 20 years since I produced my Masters Thesis on managing change for competitive success based on Pettigrew & Whipp’s research of the later 80s and 90s. Since that time, strategic planning was reborn in the 1990s. New approaches for strategy focused on growth through mergers/acquisitions and joint ventures, generation of innovative ideas through decentralized strategic efforts within the company, emergent strategy, and the leveraging of core competencies to create strategic intent. By the start of this century the focus shifted to strategic and organizational innovation, including reconciling size with flexibility and responsiveness. New alliances mean cooperative strategies, complexity, changes in commitments of corporate social responsibility, etc. Today’s strategic planning and execution requires new models of leadership, less formal structures, and more commitment to self-direction.

Unfortunately, both strategic planning and implementation’s effectiveness leaves a lot to be desired with 60% of all change initiatives failing. Sydney Finkelstein summarizes areas of most strategic planning failure: launching new ventures, promoting innovation and change, managing mergers and acquisitions and responding to new environmental pressures. So in this era of dramatic change, global alliances, and a variety of environmental pressures, the potential for failure is very real.

This blog looks at what leaders need to consider to avoid being another survey statistic.