Jennell Evans

Jennell Evans

Smart@Work

Strategic Planning Made Simple

Strategic planning doesn't have to be hard. Here's how.

Posted Jan 30, 2010

In the workplace, the words "strategic plan" tend to either energize people or drain them, depending on their past experience with the discipline.

As an organizational development consultant, I often speak with workplace leaders about the value of having a simple strategic plan that aligns people and processes to achieve shared goals.

Sounds like common sense, right? Doesn't every organization have one? No, and it got me thinking about why some companies and nonprofits do not have one.

I think misperceptions about what is involved in creating a practical and effective strategic plan can create false barriers to undertaking the process. Some of those misperceptions may be rooted in business practices that were popular many years ago. In the 70's and 80's, during the peak of the TQM (total quality management) movement, people would spend hours upon hours developing lengthy, detailed 5+ year strategic plans that often ended up in someone's files, never to be seen again. Strategic planning was not sexy, and more likely viewed as a dull, laborious task that quickly became outdated. Once the "Strategic Planning Box" was officially checked, people continued to work in silos, focus on their area of responsibility, and individual to-do list.

In the 90's, the speed of organizational change revved up to a pace that dictated strategic plans be shorter and relevant for just 6-12 months. Later, during the dot-com era, strategic planning became almost non-existent or perhaps too "old-school" to be perceived as adding any value to an organization. Some of the brilliant high tech start-ups might have ended up very differently if they had developed a strategic plan to bring their concepts to reality in the marketplace.

Fast forward to 2010. The economic downturn has provided time for leaders to reflect, recalibrate, and strategize for the future. What made organizations successful in the past may not be what will keep them successful in the future. Today, more organizations appear to be taking time to develop simple strategic plans as an inclusive process, and one that may combine the best of all lessons learned from the past.
I've worked with organizations that have benefited greatly from even a plan with just six core elements defined:

  1. Vision 
  2. Mission
  3. Core Values
  4. Strategic Areas of Focus 
  5. Strategic Goals
  6. Action Plans

Simple strategic plans can be created collaboratively, updated frequently, and most importantly, implemented to ensure a R.O.I. In future blogs, I will expand on the core components of the simple strategic plan concept and share some real life examples of vision statements, core values, and more.