February 25, 2023

Strategic Planning Process Improvements to Avoid Déjà Vu

Strategy & Delivery

Have you ever seen an organization go through the same, stale strategic planning process year after year? The identical issues from the prior year are brought to the planning table, the same potential solutions discussed, and by the end of the process, it feels like “groundhog day.”

Improve Your Strategic Planning Process

Robust strategy planning that leads to successful execution should not feel like an endless repeat of the same cycle for everyone involved. Instead, the process needs to be focused on analysis, ideation, and problem solving so that when it’s complete, the plan is a goal-oriented tool that supports achievement of revenue and growth goals.

Here are five tips for maximizing the achievement of your strategic objectives and reduce your risk of experiencing strategic planning déjà vu:


1. Begin with the end in mind

Effective and sustainable strategic plans answer critical business questions and address your organization’s most challenging problems. As you undertake strategic planning, start by defining why you are going through this process, identifying what you need to achieve, and documenting a concise definition of the organization’s biggest problems. This is your definition of success for the strategic planning process and is the foundational exercise of the process. Thinking through your end goals will be the backbone for the entire planning process because it is difficult to hit an undefined target. Starting with a clear vision of the results you want to achieve will lead to an effective, goal-oriented strategy.


Aspirant’s Advice: Clearly define and document what success looks like, and then revisit that definition at the outset of each strategic planning session with participants to re-ground the big picture.


2. Include the right people in planning

At many organizations, it is common to find that only a few select leaders are entrusted with developing the entire strategic plan for an organization or business unit. However, involving knowledgeable stakeholders and other business leaders beyond the executive team is critical for the sustained success of that strategic plan. When assembling a planning team, ensure you have the right level of management available to participate in plan development while keeping the team optimally sized to succeed.

Bringing external partners into the conversation can make a big difference. Outsourcing all or part of strategic planning will lighten the burden for internal teams and streamline the process. This approach would infuse a fresh perspective to protect against groupthink. Objective, impartial third parties can be invaluable when asking tough questions of leaders and navigating sensitive topics. Identify and include the right leaders, stakeholders and external influencers from the beginning and you will maximize the likelihood success.


Aspirant’s Advice: Think about who you need to include in your planning process. If your strategic planning meeting invite is an exact replica of all the other standing leadership team meetings on the calendar, rethink hitting the 'send' button. By incorporating diversity of experience, expertise, and ideas into the strategic session, you will generate a customized strategy with creative solutions to guide your company’s growth.


3. Clear the calendar

While everyone would love a short-cut or 'easy button' for this process, the truth is that identifying the purpose and content of the plan requires time to define and create. Considerable time is required to construct a robust strategic plan, but the benefit it will yield is monumental as it will influence the company's foreseeable future.

The planning team is essentially creating the roadmap for your organization's economic future, so assuming they can develop an effective plan ‘in their spare time’ is not realistic. Once you have defined your ‘what’ and ‘why,’ estimate the amount of time required to build your plan and ensure the appropriate resources have the capacity to support the strategic plan development. From our experience, a three- to six-month time frame will typically allow sufficient time to create a strategic plan, governance strategy, and integrated roadmap for a large portfolio of initiatives.


Aspirant’s Advice: Be realistic in the time that it will take to create a great strategic plan and work with senior leadership to ensure that there is support at the top to prioritize the time commitment of key participants.


4. Identify cross-initiative impacts

An effective strategic plan will include cross-project impacts to assist in managing internal and external change management considerations. As dates for one strategic initiative shift, any subsequent projects that are dependent upon the initiative moving should be evaluated to ensure business objectives will still be fulfilled. Knowing which projects impact the delivery of others is one of the most valuable pieces of information in your strategic plan. At regular intervals, your strategic plan review meeting should be used to assess changes since your last review as well as to analyze the cross-project impacts that are key making progress. As you plan the timing of the business value your strategic plan delivers, make sure cross-initiative dependencies are identified as an input to analysis and governance.


Aspirant’s Advice: An integrated strategic roadmap that visually depicts the dependencies across initiatives is an essential deliverable to optimize execution of the strategic plan.


5. Consider the human component of change

We all are averse to adopting change by nature. At the same time, strategic plans are intended to create changes within an organization. Therefore, many strategic plans are created and forgotten before the ink dries because the changes it lays out are intimidating. Before finalizing a strategic plan, ensure there is alignment and support amongst those who will execute the plan. These critical stakeholders will need to have the capacity to overcome internal initiative changes, corporate goal modifications, competitive landscape shifts, and economic environment fluctuations. Considering the human capacity to adopt change is a key component to the strategic plan’s value and success. Building in time to conduct capacity and capability assessments will ensure your strategy can become a reality.


Aspirant’s Advice: Ensure your team is prepared to execute a new strategic plan and adopt change by gauging their capacity for change through an organizational effectiveness assessment.


Ready for Action

By following the steps outlined above, you can stop the endless cycle of re-planning and start bringing your plan to life. Your strategic plan will become the compass for where your company is headed and define how you will get there. the frustration of "Didn’t we discuss that last time?" will be eliminated. Planning once and executing a well-crafted plan will free up your team to keep focus on their 'day jobs'. 


Aspirant's Strategy & Delivery team is comprised of experienced consulting professionals who assist clients by breathing new life into their strategic planning processes and equipping them with the tools they need to successfully execute.


How Aspirant Can Help

Aspirant's Strategy & Delivery experts have helped clients of varying size and industry develop and execute strategic plans that achieve their organizational goals. Use the form below to request a casual discussion about how they can do the same for you and your team.


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Ann specializes in strategic planning and transformation, applying her 20+ years of experience to create valuable assets which enable companies to realize their growth potential. Developing a sustainable strategic model, creating a visual depiction of strategic implementation over time, and crafting an operational playbook for strategic execution are representative of the typical deliverables she creates for clients. Ann’s diverse professional background has provided her with the expertise to bridge business and technology to construct plans which increase her client’s odds of reaching critical revenue and expansion goals.

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