Friday, February 16, 2007

Strategic Planning - making a funky schedule work

Often, I'm called by someone who wants to get their strategic planning done in a two to three-day meeting. This reflects a disease in the world of strategic planning that I call "retreat-itis" - the illusion that a proper strategic plan can be created in one sitting by the management team. The most common issue with doing this kind of schedule is that the team has no chance to research their data and assumptions used in strategy formulation - leading to a poor foundation for decision making. In addition, on the implementation planning, there is no opportunity to check on resource requirements or schedules, and so the implementation plans are unrealistic, at best.

So, how can we make this work? First, if possible, I ask the team to do the best job they can filling out the worksheets in sections 1, 2 and 4 of the Simplified Strategic Planning manual before the "retreat". This gives us a base of researched and considered data to work from. It's not ideal, because I haven't really given the team good instructions on how to use the worksheets, but it's better than nothing. The real sticking point for most teams here will be market segmentation, so I sometimes do a simple segmentation for them on the phone.

The second thing I do to adapt to this is to tell the team that implementation planning won't be a part of this process - it simply can't be fit in to a 2 day retreat. If the client insists, we can try to do it in a 3 day retreat, but I warn the client that we will be missing some key data, and that I usually allow weeks of preparation for the implementation planning.

As I said, this isn't ideal, but the next time you have to do a quickie strategic plan, you can at least get the company a little closer to the results of the standard schedule outlined in our Simplified Strategic Planning course.

1 comment:

Rodney Brim said...

I liked the theme of your blog; addressing expectations about strategic planning. I'm fascinated with the presence of "assumptions" in strategic planning, not only those about the market, but as you allude to, those assumptions about how much time it should take.

I'm interested in how you approach the use of technology to be strategic. Leave me a comment on my blog in that area when you get a chance. You'll find it at

Rodney Brim