Strategic Planning: Turning Vision Into Reality

by J Kendall Lott

Performing strategic planning is not the same thing as planning strategically. This is never clearer to me than in multi-day offsite brainstorming sessions with senior management teams. You’ve got all the tools for successful planning—a highly recommended consultant with a slew of best practice models, easels with big sticky pads, Post-It notes and colored markers, fruit and bagels, even Jenga for break time…what could go wrong? Yet, not long after defining your vision and Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), you find yourself asking, “What did we say we were going to do?”  

The Goal of Strategic Planning   

Too often the outcome of a strategic planning process is a three-to-five year plan that is one or all of the following:  

  • Too lofty  
  • Too complicated  
  • Not able to change organizational behavior  
  • Out of date within a few quarters  

Strategy is really about defining change. Management should leave a planning exercise with a common understanding of the change to be made and the sequence of steps necessary to make the change.

The Strategy Process for Change

The key to a successful strategic planning process is to translate a desired direction into an actionable, executable plan, with a layered approach from visioning to interpretation, planning, and governance:  

  1. Strategic Direction – The Destination: Your definition of change, what needs to be different, as defined by management and subject matter experts.  
  1. Strategic Design – The Interpretation: The sequence of changes that must occur to reach the destination in the desired timeframe, as outlined by your executives and senior managers.  
  1. Strategic Planning – The Roadmap: The expectation of the work to be performed based on the timeframe, resources, dependencies, and organizational interactions, defined in collaboration with your senior and middle managers.  
  1. Strategic Governance – The Data Layer: A persistent feedback loop to review the progress and value of change with executive and senior management representatives to ensure expectations are being met.   

No one plans to fail, but they do fail to plan, strategically. For more information, read the M Powered Strategies’ white paper, Strategy Made Plannable .