Sunday, August 19, 2007

Strategic Planning: But We Don't Have a Strategic Competency!

Every year I hear this comment from dozens of companies, when I present my program on strategic competency. While the concept is quite possibly the single most powerful tool in strategic planning, the hard reality is that far too many of us do NOT have a real strategic competency.

Does this mean you should give up on the idea because it is irrelevant to you and your business?

Absolutely not.

Strategic competency is the one thing that separates the men from the boys in strategic planning. Wimpy strategic planners will back off from the idea and go after the low-hanging fruit of modest operating improvements and shrewd tactical moves in the marketplace. The muy macho approach is to take the bull by the horns - so we don't have a strategic competency? Let's get one!

The problem with this response - and the reason most companies don't respond this way - is that it's hard. No question about it, building a real strategic competency where one does not currently exist is probably the most difficult, expensive and time-consuming undertaking in strategic planning. And that is exactly why it is also the most valuable. So why do most of us shy away from committing to an obsession with our competency? I think we shy away because it's risky. Commit to the wrong competency and you will waste a ton of time and money, with poor results to show for it.

But...let's have some confidence in our strategic planning, ok? If we've done a good job on the planning process (and, if you use a real professional, you should have confidence in that), why wouldn't we commit? Sun Tzu pointed out that soldiers fought better if you made them smash their rice-pots - because commitment to winning the battle was the only way to assure they would eat. I suspect that many of us in management are unwilling to smash our own rice-pots...and we pay the price every day with less than stellar results.

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