Time and time again, organizations book strategy days, plan retreats and spend money on strategic planning sessions that don’t produce any lasting results. The session may go well and produce a sensible and comprehensible plan for everyone to follow, but progress hardly takes form. The plan barely gets off the ground before it’s pulled back down to business as usual.
Here are some likely reasons why:
The vision statement is one of the first steps of creating a strategic plan. Unfortunately, if your organization isn’t aligned with the new vision, the rest of the plan will eventually crumble. Too often, an organization comes up with a vision at the top, which is far too conceptual and difficult to picture for employees near the bottom. It may sound great and look good on the wall at headquarters, but your employees will have little idea how the vision relates to them or how they can be apart of that success. A clear vision will motivate your employees and set your organization on a path to success. Learn more about how to create a vision your whole organization can buy into.
- Goals aren’t measurable
Goals that are vague, conceptual and immeasurable are one of the leading reasons an organization is unable to execute their strategic plan. These goals may sound nice and be strategically sound, but they’re difficult to reach. “Excellent customer service” may be a noble pursuit, but it’s not a measurable goal. It takes conviction to set measurable goals, because if they aren’t reached, it’ll be seen as a failure. However, in order for employees to take action steps towards completing goals, they need dates, targets and percentages to aim for.
- Too many directions
When an organization is being pulled in too many directions at once, it can be difficult to get anywhere at all. All too often, when a strategic plan is being built, too many strategic priorities are put forward. Understandably, organizational leadership will want to address every issue and improve every metric, but eventually, too many goals move the strategy past the threshold of attainability. However difficult it may be to do, choosing just two or three strategic priorities and getting everyone on board is where you’ll see success. Narrowing down strategic priorities is the essence of strategic planning, and remains one of the most difficult parts of the planning process.
- No buy-in
One of the biggest reasons why strategic plans fail is lack of buy-in. The plan may be sound, with measurable goals and a clear direction, but it’s worthless if the rest of your team isn’t on board. Early and constant communication with all members of your team is crucial. Ask around, collect feedback and take the temperature at different levels of your organization. In order to avoid drifting back to business-as-usual, quarterly strategy update meetings can be set to keep everyone on the right track. If employees aren’t bought in early, they may become confused about what their role is and what goals to reach for.
- No execution
Many firms find execution to be the hardest part about strategy, probably because they don’t plan on it. In strategy sessions, great ideas are often brought forward and inserted into the strategic plan without any real execution plan. Who will do what by when? Everyone from the bottom up needs to be clear on which direction they’re moving and how they’re going to get there. On the ground execution relies on your people being able to understand and align with the organization’s vision, mission and goals, communicate effectively and work together.
The format of a strategic plan is highly underrated, and often not taken into account in the planning phase. Many organizations spend days putting together a beautifully designed plan that is put in a binder tucked away in someone’s office for nobody to see. In most cases, a plan in physical form will just collect dust if not supported by another means. Using a software is an ideal way to store your plan so everyone has access, can track progress and see what action steps they’re in charge of. Spreadsheets are also a great way to present visual data, but come with drawbacks. Learn the pros and cons of using software vs. spreadsheets.
Looking for a more in-depth walk-through of the strategic planning process?