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Strategic Planning, Still Useful to Achieve Results?

Our environment is changing constantly. Traditional strategic planning is no longer effective in this context, because we are constantly having to adapt, reinvent, and even transform ourselves. In business transformation, you need to have a vision, and to be prepared to discover how to reach it iteratively, staying focused on goals rather than plans.

The limits of traditional strategic planning

In many organizations, traditional strategic planning is still very much alive, but is never followed through. Because of changing projects, budgets and priorities, the goals, even when well defined, are never achieved. I’ve seen strategic plans constructed by vice presidents who failed to take into account the interlinkages needed to deliver on them. I’ve seen strategic plans that went in multiple directions without clear goals, and ended up with over 400 indicators to track. I’ve seen strategic plans that did not take into account the organization's ability to implement them or integrate them. In short, traditional strategic planning has become too static to deliver a true strategy for the future.

A study by Bain & Company showed that only 33% of executives believe their strategic planning delivers an ambitious strategy that is sufficiently clear, can adapt to constant change and provides good guidance for managers.

What if the plan was the problem?

Is a five-year, three-year, or even a one-year plan still realistic? I honestly believe that transformation is much more than a plan. To generate the expected value and achieve its goals, an organization must manage transformation very differently from how it manages projects. If your strategic planning comes down to a three- or a five-year plan with a series of projects, your chances of bringing about successful transformation are slim.

The alternative: a transformation roadmap that defines the key success factors

There are a number of keys to a successful transformation. Rather than annual planning, you should be focusing on a transformation roadmap that stays flexible, providing a framework for managing uncertainty and realigning your strategy iteratively on a regular basis. The key factors in the success of your roadmap include:

  • Managing the uncertainty of transformation so you can proceed with confidence
  • Openly sharing the imperatives (the “why”) of change and clearly defined priorities
  • Putting in place transformation governance that is separate from operational governance and project governance
  • Identifying the right people with the key skills to manage the transformation
  • Managing your employees' commitment to the transformation
  • Defining clear goals and managing the realization of the benefits
  • Transforming your corporate culture so that it is resilient and open to transformation

Each of these key factors is sufficiently important to deserve its own blog article. Follow us to learn more about them.

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