October 7, 2022

Develop a Valuable Strategic Plan: Avoid Strategic Planning Déjà Vu

Strategy & Delivery

Have you ever experienced yourself, or have 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.”

Robust strategy planning that leads to successful execution should not feel like an endless repeat of the same cycle for participants. 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. 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. Here are five (5) tips from our team to maximize 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 select, few leaders are entrusted with developing the entire strategic plan for an organization or business unit. However, involvement of knowledgeable stakeholders and other business leaders beyond the executive team is critical for sustained success of that strategic plan. When assembling a planning team, ensure you have the right level of management available to review, revise, and participate in plan development while keeping the team optimally sized to succeed. Additionally, consider outside expertise for a fresh perspective and to protect against “group think.” Outsourcing all or part of the strategic planning process can also bring increased efficacy and an objective perspective, especially for topics with high internal or political sensitivity. 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” to this process, the truth is that when composing a strategic plan, the path to identifying the purpose and content of the plan requires time to define and create. While there is considerable time required to construct a valuable strategic plan, the benefit it will yield is monumental as it should influence the next several years. The planning team is essentially creating the roadmap for your company’s economic future, so assuming they can develop an effective plan ‘off the side of their desk’ 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.

By our nature, we all are averse to adopting change. 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 hurdle of changing can seem too large. As such, before investing valuable time creating a strategic plan, ensure there is alignment and support by those who will execute and use the plan. This critical stakeholder group will need to have the capacity to implement change based on the following types of changes: internal initiative changes, corporate goal modifications, competitive landscape shifts, or 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.

Your strategic plan will become the compass for where your company is headed and how to get there. Banish the experience of yet another comment like ‘didn’t we already discuss that last time?’ in your strategy sessions by creating a valuable tool that motivates and aligns teams due to the involvement of a diverse group of individuals and a new approach to planning. Planning once and executing on a well-crafted plan will free up your team to focus on day-to-day operations. By following the steps outlined above, you can stop the endless cycle of re-planning and start bringing your plan to life.

To learn more on how Aspirant can support your company with strategic planning, please fill out the form below to get started.

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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