Who does it? Who owns it?

What’s the best way to conduct the strategic planning process? If you answered ‘hire a consultant’ or possibly ‘assign a company team’ you’d be heading down the path I call ‘waste of time and money’.

Hiring a specialist to help isn’t a bad idea, nor is putting a team together to work on the project but if that’s ALL you do, then don’t bother doing anything.

The strategic planning process must, must, MUST involve both the highest level of management as well as the people who’ll be charged with actioning it. The involvement of management is mandatory in order to get the buy in of all people within the company; without that commitment from the very top, the plan has a real danger of ending up in a binder – a very attractive binder, of course – gathering dust on people’s shelves.

Don’t let the process become an excuse for temporary inaction. The planning process is critical if the company is to move forward and grow. But be sure not to stop everything else while it’s happening. It’s not uncommon for people not involved in the process to put a hold on their own decision-making while the planning is underway. You hear people say ‘Oh, we can’t commit to that because the strategic plan isn’t finished’.

The other problem I’ve found is the rush to complete: ‘We have to do X now because once the plan comes out we’ll lose our funding’.

It’s called ‘strategic’ for a reason. It’s about the future, not today and certainly not the past. It’s vital that the company maintain its impetus while the planning process is underway. 

Don’t plan in secret. Whether you think of strategic planning as a process with a beginning, a middle and an end, or you see it as something ongoing (which is how I see it), it still needs to be a collaborative one. It needs to involve people from many different levels and parts of the company, so they understand the process and what it’s trying to achieve.

You could also consider involving suppliers and customers too. You’ll give the plan credibility – people will understand what’s going on and how their contributions and needs are being considered.  This is how you’ll get the buy-in that’s so vital to successful implementation.

Remember: no matter what business you're in, people are what make it happen.

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