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One of the Biggest Strategic Planning Failures I've Ever Seen

By Anthony Taylor - October 18, 2016

There are a few keys to developing a successful strategic plan, and one of them is getting everyone bought into your plan. Without alignment, the whole strategy comes to a standstill, or worse, drags the organization backwards. Even if you have a great strategic plan and very clear benefits and opportunities, it still does not guarantee success until you have everyone bought in.

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Getting alignment and buy in can take time and a lot of work. It means creating opportunities for everyone on your team to share feedback and perspectives early on, and making sure you have them involved in the planning process so that they feel that they are a part of the plan, rather than it being forced on them.

If any party feels like they are being pressured to change or do anything they don't want to do, they may slow the success of the plan implementation. You might find yourself dragging the parties kicking and screaming....

Here's one example of a strategic plan that didn't get full buy-in might result in trillions of dollars in lost economic value and opportunity:

There's a free trade agreement that's been in the work for several years called CETA (the comprehensive economic trade agreement) between Canada and Europe. The USA has a similar imitative in TPP. One of the member regions is Wallonia, a small region in Belgium that is struggling to find economic success in this new economy. Wallonia is voting against CETA and is starting to create their own guiding coalition which may prove powerfully harmful to the success of the initiative.

To put this initiative in perspective, there are 20+ other countries on board, with years spent working on drafting the document, and hundreds of thousands of hours dedicated to creating the frameworks, agreements and opportunities for this to go in place.

We worked for the government of Brussels for 2 years, finding Canadian companies that would be a good fit to take advantage of this initiative, and I bet there are many other management consulting companies like us that are looking at this announcement and wondering how it happened.

Although there were lots of people, even the majority of people that were supportive of this initiative, one small Guiding coalition who are able to hold it back.

What does it mean for your organization?

If you're launching your upcoming strategic plan, or any project plan, it's important to be 100% clear on where you have alignment, and where you don't.

  • Is the communication clear as to what the vision is and what the impacts are on all your stakeholders?
  • If you don't have alignment or buy in, what do you need to do to get it. Think you can keep going without everyone bought in? Think again.
  • If you don't have buy in, find out why and what you can do about it.
  • Just because you have buy in and alignment now, doesn't mean you're going to have it forever. Keep checking in, and keep managing your stakeholders.

    It all starts with your strategic plan and working with your team to get on the same page early, so it's easier to keep them on the same page later.


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