Tag Archives: planning process

Strategic Planning; Waste of Time, Obsolete: Dead as a Roadmap for Shaping the Future of Business…

Strategic planning is a waste of time: Oh, it might do good for some business but the idea should be scrapped in favor of business practices that embrace; flexibility, agility… that’s because most strategic plans just don’t work… strategic planning has become a ritualistic process where discussions are held in thoughtful tones, while most participants secretly suspect that nothing will really be decided or changed…

According to J. Brian Quinn; a good deal of the strategic planning is like a primitive ritual rain dance– there is a lot of dancing, waving of feathers, beating of drums… there is an almost mystical hope that something good will come out of it– you pretend to make strategy and then pretend to implement it… the process involves too much paper, too much time, too many nodding heads, and far too many poorly informed so-called experts… it’s anathema to even question the validity of the strategic planning process, but it’s time to challenge reality.

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According to Henry Mintzberg; strategic planning discourages change, narrows a company’s vision, limits flexibility and it’s, in fact, oxymoronic. The process fails more often than not; it just doesn’t work anymore, and it can be downright dangerous… However, many experts believe that planning is fundamental to success, but it’s naive and counter-productive to assume that traditional strategic planning, as we know it, is the answer… Flexibility, agility, fluidity, and not strategic plans are the keys to success in the modern business world… It’s a digital world: The Internet and affordable high-speed technology have radically reduced time lines, and profoundly changed the way you need to operate, and the way you need to plan…

In the article Can Strategic Planning Pay Off? by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. writes: One of the most intriguing management phenomena of the late 60s and the early 70s was the rapid spread of the strategic-planning concept… Few management techniques have swept through corporate and government enterprises more rapidly or completely. Writer after writer has hailed this new discipline as the fountain-head of all corporate progress. In 1962, one published report extolled strategic planning as– a systematic means by which a company can become what it wants to be…

Five years later, it was called– a means to help management gain increasing control over the destiny of a corporationBy 1971, praise of strategic planning verged on the poetic; it had become– the manifestation of a company’s determination to be the master of its own fate to penetrate the darkness of uncertainty and provide the illumination of probability… It’s not surprising, therefore, that one company after another raced to embrace this source of managerial salvation…

Hence, it seemed appropriate to ask some chief executives whether strategic planning has lived up to its advance billings. Three anonymous reactions were as follows; strategic planning is basically just a play thing of staff… and, it’s like a Chinese dinner: I feel full when I eat it, but after a little while I wonder whether I’ve eaten at alland, strategic planning is a staggering waste of time and money… Some CEOs, of course, would disagree with these comments, but the fact remains that in large majority of companies strategic planning tends to be an academic, ill-defined activity with little or no bottom-line impact… Nothing really new happens as a result of the plan, except that everyone gets a warm glow of security and satisfaction now that the uncertainty of the future has been contained: Unfortunately, warm feelings do not produce tangible business results…

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That is, the strategic plan should clearly set forth the critical issues facing a company or division in terms of alternative courses of current action… And, if there are more than five or six issues, then they are probably the wrong ones… also, if the decisions do not involve major risks or investments and/or changes in competitive posture, or if the decisions do not have to be made now, then they are the wrong decisions… This is the creative leap that too many managements fail to make in strategic planning. They fail to ask; What do we do now as a result of this plan? They fail to recognize that the end product of strategic analysis should not be plans; but– decisions, actions… Hence, strategic planning should be more like; strategic agility and that means– it’s risky; it’s difficult; it requires leadership

In the article What Makes Strategy Fail by Ruth Tearle writes: Many senior managers are very cynical about the strategic planning process… The usual commentary is that strategic planning is a waste of time; the agenda is just like last year where we achieved nothing… there was no real direction, nothing was ever implemented. For many observers strategic planning is a process of having many great ‘pretenders’ and the end result is a sham. Time spent away at fancy retreat where nothing gets achieved, and employees throughout the organization continue to complain about the lack of direction… How do you know if the strategy retreat is ‘pretence’ or ‘success’? How do you know if the retreat delegates are only just great ‘pretenders’? Consider, for example:

  • Delegates who:­ Pretend to be there. Pretend to listen. Pretend to ask questions. Pretend to contribute. Pretend to act in best interests of the organization, while cleverly sabotaging the process…
  • Leaders who: Pretend the purpose of the retreat is to allow the group to co-create a strategy. Pretend that simply presenting a strategy to the teams is enough to excite and inspire them. Pretend it’s possible for a team to develop a vision of the future without considering how the future may be different from today. Pretend it’s possible for a group of bored people to create a brilliant strategy, which will excite and delight– customers, employees….

In the article Strategic Plan: Neither Strategy Nor Plan But Waste of Time by Benjamin Ginsberg; It would be incorrect to assert that strategic plans are never what they purport to be, i.e., blueprints for the future. Occasionally a business plan does, in fact, present a grand design for next decade… A plan that is actually designed to guide an organization’s efforts to achieve future objectives… Such a plan typically presents concrete objectives, a timetable for their realization, an outline of the tactics that will be employed, a precise assignment of staff responsibilities, and budgets… Whether one agreed or disagreed with the goals stated by the plan, there could be little disagreement about the character of the plan…

However, this ultimate plan is usually indistinguishable from dozens of other plans, which were probably copied from still other plans… Usually there is nothing new or different, it just a rehash of the same old rhetoric… this inter-changeability of visions, underscores the fact that the precise content of most business strategic plans is pretty much irrelevant… Plans are usually forgotten soon after they are promulgated, and no one can remember much about any of those plans… These plans are not a blueprint for the future, instead they are management tool for the present… The ubiquity of traditional planning is another reflection and reinforcement of the continuing realization that many leaders are out of touch with the reality of the changing world…

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However, it must be remembered that the underlying objectives of the strategy planning process is as important today, as ever.  It’s still critical to establish and communicate the strategic direction of a business… and if business competitive environment is static and pretty much as assumed by business leadership, then traditional strategic planning process will likely produce the desired results… But herein lies the failing; the business environment is no longer predictable, and it’s changing at rate faster than the planning horizon, which requires a new way of thinking– it requires a focus on ‘agility’ as the strategic imperative…

According to Denise Lee Yohn; the amount of disruption in today’s markets (and speed at which it happens) requires a very different planning approach… Instead of setting a definite strategy and following it through at all costs, companies should focus on– strategically adapting-to and excelling-at whatever path they find themselves on…

Developing strategic agility starts with changing many of the traditional thought bubbles (i.e., beliefs, assumptions, rules…) about the strategic planning process… According to Fred Pidsadny; focus on how the business must shift and adapt to stay competitive, or better yet to disrupt and leapfrog the competition, and once you determine necessary course corrections, take action ‘immediately’– don’t wait for next strategic planning session… Today’s market leaders must be– fast, agile, and able to change course with a minimum of disruption– strategic agility, fast execution– must be Priority #1.

According to C. Eric Brown; Don’t overly complicate it. Don’t over-think it. Create a relevant strategy, define the tactics, measure progress… then change it, if it’s not working… There is no natural cycle of when to define and refine strategies; strategic planning, monitoring– must happen whenever necessary, anytime, all of the time… Creating strategies that are truly adaptive requires that you give-up on many long-held assumptions, and focus on answering a series of specific interrelated questions about the organization’s strategic direction, for example; what vision to pursue… how to make a difference… how to succeed… what capabilities it will take to get there…

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It’s time to radically change the way you think about business; In the book, ‘Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done’, they say– So much thinking has gone into strategy that it’s no longer an intellectual challenge; rent any strategy you want from a consulting firm… In the book, ‘Confronting Reality’, it argues that the methodologies used to plan the future of business have steadily drifted away from reality and the strategic plans of most companies just don’t work…

According to Tom Peters; it’s foremost task, responsibility of the current generation of leaders to re-imagine the entire business process… To that end, it’s necessary to break away from that which does not work, and reinvent the process of creating strategies… According to Dwight D. Eisenhower; plans are useless but planning is everything… and you must be ready to adapt to whatever curveballs the twenty-first century sees fit to throw…