Top 14 Fatal Strategic Planning Flaws
Recently, we were stunned when a new customer handed us their strategic plan to review. The document was about 50 pages long and nothing more than a collection of Word tables that listed the activities of the organization’s leadership team. Of all the potential strategic planning flaws you could run into, this one is critical because it also gives rise to the most lethal flaw on our list of strategic planning flaws.
As we were to learn, strategic planning there was a rhetorical exercise in which everyone filled out a form at the beginning of each year listing the things they were going to accomplish. The forms were assembled into a tidy document and updated quarterly. It was all very task-oriented. Yes, strategic plans contain tasks, but not in a vacuum. Without goals, objectives, and strategies to provide context, the tasks are meaningless. In this case, they were.
Strategic Planning Mistakes
Strategic planning mistakes can appear in many different ways. Executives may not always easily spot different types of strategic planning flaws. A strategic plan without measurable objectives is no strategic plan at all. It is junk and will mislead the organization into believing it is blazing a path to the future, when, in all likelihood, it is setting up its own demise. After all, what is strategic planning if it does not generate real, meaningful, and tangible business results? Here are 14 of the most common strategic planning flaws.
1. Allowing Planning to Kill Strategy
Planning is an integral part of any business plan or strategy. The planning process allows you and your employees to demonstrate the different goals you have in mind and how they can be achieved. However, too much planning, or too much focus on it, might dilute the importance of your strategy execution. While planning is a significant first step, at some point, you need to shift the overall focus to the strategy itself and how it will be executed to meet the desired growth.
Many managers and leaders may take too much time in the planning process trying to perfect every tiny detail. While this is admirable, it can also cause a delay in carrying through your anticipated results. Strategy execution should not be confused with planning, as they are completely different parts of the process. Planning usually consists of an organized list of initiatives with associated budgets, resources, and deadlines. On the other hand, strategy is implementing specific decisions that lead to sustainable competitive and financial advantages.
2. Disorganized or Poorly Written Plan
A poorly designed or disorganized plan will most likely lead to poor execution, which may cause your strategic plan to fail. Sufficient research and development of a plan with expertise and direction can be a part of the process to refine and organize it. A jumble of to-do lists that are not coordinated and have no stated objectives may only cause your team to take longer to come up with a proper arrangement.
Carrying out your company’s plans and objectives can also become more challenging if your team does not clearly understand their responsibilities or have enough resources to complete their tasks. To improve your plan’s organization, you should consider identifying what jobs need to be done and assess how they will be divided among different people or departments. Assigning specific teams for your plan can help it become a reality.
3. All Vision, No Direction
Envisioning what you want your strategic plan to achieve is vital to creating a common goal and mission for you and your team. However, if there is no means of implementing your plan, it may never get off the ground. Many things can cause an absence of direction, such as inadequate research, misallocated resources, or uncertainty of market competition. It is important to develop a specific path that you want your employees to put their time and energy towards.
Usually, an unclear mission leads to a lack of direction or path, so you should ensure that all of the essential elements of your mission are accounted for. Otherwise, it may cause confusion and decrease focus on the vision of your plan. Leaders can provide a strong foundation for a strategic business plan with guidance and detailed instructions.
4. Being too Vague
Having a strategic plan is an excellent start to putting it into action. But it may be hard to communicate with your employees or stakeholders if your plan lacks specificity in particular areas. If your plan is too vague or general, such as just listing “growth” or “increased revenue,” it may not properly motivate employees in their roles to aim for accomplishment. This deficiency in certain areas can impair your ability to create changes and may lead to stagnation in terms of advancement for your business.
Creating a specific, highlighted plan with apparent goals and means of achieving them may reduce the likelihood of concerns or the need for clarification in the future. Using specific objectives can help you develop a reasonable timeline for intended success. It may also assist your employees in feeling confident in their respective roles and positions.
5. Incremental Thinking
While incremental goals and growth may be a positive aspect of strategic planning, incremental thinking is usually not. This method of thinking usually consists of waiting for immediate, linear results. However, that is generally not realistic when a business is on the path to growth and success. Incremental thinking is a more traditional process that may cause you to expect progress because you think you are making the right decisions.
Before implementing your next business strategy, consider practicing an exponential mindset. Exponential thinking allows you to assess your growth in terms of its journey rather than overnight results. Exponential projections are not always certain and may not always meet your expectations as reliably as incremental thinking. But this method focuses on working differently instead of working better, so you can practice patience and alignment in your business, bringing about the opportunity for innovation.
6. Insufficient Focus
Another fatal flaw in strategic planning can be insufficient focus in the workplace. Employees who have too many widespread tasks may not know what to prioritize or what objectives are more relevant to the goals the company wants to reach. Staying consistent with communication and reflecting on your business’s values and mission can be a helpful reminder that may keep team members on track.
Leadership may also be focusing too much on internal issues that may not relate to their goals, such as resolving conflicts and sustaining performance. Too much internal attention can mean leaders fail to acknowledge competition markets and trends in technology. Focusing on the necessary elements of your strategic plan is key to maintaining the dynamic in your business, but 70% of leaders review their strategy on average of only one day a month. Spending too little time focusing on your prime concerns may lead to strategic failure.
7. Prioritizing the Wrong Things
While outlining specific priorities and goals is essential for strategic planning, it is crucial to prioritize the right things. Your priorities should directly align with your strategic business plan and make an obvious connection to how your company will succeed through particular steps and tasks. Explaining your priority objectives in detail and why they matter to your organization can help you understand if they truly are important.
You should feel confident in your priorities and know exactly how they will contribute to achieving success. It can also be normal for priorities to change throughout the process of implementing your strategic plan. Your goals may occasionally need to be restructured due to industry changes or financial impediments, so it’s a good idea to revisit your primary concerns regularly to see if they still match up with your current progress.
8. Insufficient Research
A lack of proper research may present problems down the line when executing your strategy. This type of research may include competitive industry markets, a review of your company’s resources, or financial performance. It is important to consider all possible elements of your strategic plan so you can better predict challenges and obstacles.
Strategic research planning can also be helpful to define the resource and budget needs and possible outcomes before beginning a project. Leaders who prioritize research can ensure that all the important elements of a plan can be accurately measured and completed. Emerging industry trends and changes can also be identified and updated according to your business plans with appropriate research. A lack of research could lead to a deficient comprehensive strategic plan because of failure to highlight related interactions, pressure points, and dependencies.
9. Relying too Much on External Consultants
A team of consultants is almost always a good idea for collaborating on a business plan and ensuring success. Strategic management decisions can be very challenging and consist of many different elements, so external consultants can be helpful with that process. However, strictly relying on external consultants, meaning those who are not a part of your business, may lead you to lose sight of your business goals and purpose. Essentially, no one knows your business better than the people involved in your internal organization.
The external structure, also known as the environmental subsystem, should interconnect with the internal structure of your business to maintain consistency and work to improve intended progress. Internal consultants may be more beneficial for your business, depending on the size of your project or business plan. They may have a better idea about how to allocate the resources and take a specific approach.
10. Putting Financials Ahead of Ideas
Improper use of resources is another common fatal flaw in strategic planning. Financial performance and success can be vital to the prosperity of your business as it keeps you prepared for unexpected or unplanned events. However, being overly concerned with your cash flow such that you neglect ideas that could grow your business can cause you to pause your business plan or scrap it altogether.
Consistent poor cash flow management can also prevent you from making impactful decisions, finding resolutions, and predicting a prospective financial outlook for your business. It may also keep you from being able to participate in new opportunities for your business. Staying on track with your finances and managing them sensibly may make it easier for you to take on new tasks and projects without seeing a depletion of resources.
11. Failing to Make Trade-Offs
Keeping all elements of your business plans and projects well-prioritized can ensure that there are no major imbalances. Strategies require making decisions that are sometimes difficult but necessary. Making trade-offs is very common and essential in most businesses and involves choosing one option or action over another. This ensures that your revenue, time, energy, and resources are going to the tasks where they can make the most impact.
For example, if your employees work towards many different, widespread goals or missions, there may not be much progress on your primary strategic plan. Failing to make trade-offs can prevent you from being able to allocate your resources to your most important key projects and objectives. Trade-offs also allow you to determine which goals may conflict with each other, which risks you are willing to take and which ones are not worth the possible loss.
12. Putting too Much Value on Your Central Idea
On the other hand, putting too much emphasis on one goal also has drawbacks. While it’s important your team keeps your central idea or goal in mind, it should be flexible and adaptable. In any industry, businesses need to be prepared for any unpredictable changes or drawbacks. Having a backup plan can help add some security to your strategy and address concerns from your team.
It is also crucial to remember that strategies cannot be perfect, and leaders and managers can’t know and control every conceivable aspect of what may occur in the future. Putting all of your focus into one central idea will not give you much room to modify or adjust when issues arise or variables change.
13. Using Unrealistic Models
Setting unrealistic ideals or goals is another reason why strategic plans fail. Goals or models that seem unattainable may decrease motivation in your employees and slow productivity performance. Setting actionable, measurable goals can make your team feel like they can accomplish something while being challenged at the same time. While it is essential to look at the big picture, it is just as vital to focus on the incremental growth of your business and keep encouraging employees to innovate.
Your strategic planning models should be aligned with your intentions, but they should also be flexible. Your employees should be able to develop these ideas and results upfront and be equipped to face unexpected obstacles. Use common sense and intuition in the decision-making process to create realistic models and goals.
14. Failing to Link Strategic Planning to Strategic Execution
A solid strategy usually consists of adequate planning, organization, and delegation of tasks. To see success from your business, you need to connect your strategic plan to your strategic execution. When managers or leaders become strictly reliant on their strategic plans, it may become more difficult to adapt to the external environment due to increased rigidity and inability to emphasize action.
Failing to link strategic planning to strategic execution may also decrease innovation in your business. Innovation is a common link between strategy and performance, which may help you keep that connection when moving from the planning to execution stage. Another part of this link may incorporate reviewing expected results and ensuring everyone stays engaged with the procedure and implementation process.
Start Executing Your Strategic Plan With AchieveIt
Any successful business understands the importance of a well-constructed strategic plan. At AchieveIt, we want to help you increase visibility, improve accountability and establish uniformity with our strategic planning software. Our strategic planning management platform will allow you to turn your strategic plans into reality by providing tools that ensure your key plans and projects progress. With our software, you can spend less time collecting updates and more time making decisions to move your organization forward.
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