Strategic Planning is Dead
A simple Internet search will produce dozens of comments bashing
strategic planning. Some claim that the gold-plated fad of the
1980s and 1990s is severely tarnished; the offsite conferences
have become more of an expensive social event than a strategy
session. Others suggest that most strategic plans are at the
bottoms of desk drawers, evidence of time wasted. Yet there is
considerable information that strongly supports one of the most
widely utilized management concepts of recent history.
Part of the controversy has to do with semantics. Strategic
and planning are alleged to be in conflict; the former implies
thinking out of the box, while the latter suggests simply continuing
in the direction indicated by recent trends. Since planning is
easier to accomplish with far less risk, it has supposedly become
the main strategic activity in most companies. Others say true
planning is not meant to occur during a strategic planning process,
thus strategic planning is misleading and should be replaced
by strategic thinking.
Unfortunately the ongoing debate masks the real
issue. Current economic conditions are dramatically different
compared to the
1980s. The impact of technology on communication and competitiveness
has significantly increased the daily pace of business operations.
Major decisions must be made quickly with considerable emphasis
on risk mitigation. It is questionable that the traditional annual
planning retreat, even with reasonable follow up, can effectively
comprehend those characteristics of today’s rapidly changing
The basic concept of strategic planning is as important as it
ever was, maybe more important. But the process must be modified
to accommodate a significantly different business climate. The
fundamental need is for a planning capability that supports effective
real time decision-making. An annual retreat marking the starting
point of a practice that takes a year to mature will no longer
adequately prepare a business to quickly capitalize on lucrative
opportunities. Perhaps strategic urgency is a more appropriate
Creating and maintaining a competitive decision making advantage
means reducing planning cycle times and encouraging company-wide
participation in the collection and exchange of relevant information.
Businesses of any size can become more competitively nimble by
performing the following steps:
Modifying the original strategic planning process requires a fairly
major cultural change. The transformation will take time, but survival
is a powerful incentive. A rapid and controlled response to change
is the objective, with the annual retreat becoming a progress review
instead of a process initialization. Strategic planning is definitely
alive and certainly necessary; it merely needs to be adjusted to
fit current business conditions.
- Develop an information system that allows
real time company-wide updating and what-if analysis by managers,
teams and individuals.
- Implement a training and development
program that results in effective and productive maintenance
and usage of the information
- Revise company policy and the performance management
system to focus attention on accurate and timely decision-making.
- Russ Simpson, Highland Community College
Instructor, ICPM Program
Small Business & Management Consultant
“Enterprise Planning: Linking Strategies, Plans
and Resources for Competitive Advantage.” Hyperion.
2005. 6 July 2006. www.hyperion.com
O’Neal, D. (2003). Managing Strategically
For Superior Performance. Massachusetts: American
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