Strategic planning is something that organizations and boards and management schools make a big deal about. And, it frankly can be an exceptionally valuable process and product, but not the way it’s normally done and used.
First, a key assumption of traditional strategic plans is that they cover a extensive period of time, usually three to five years into the future, and require specifically articulated strategic initiatives, supporting data, and financial goals for years into the future. In the current environment, that just doesn’t make sense. We can’t effectively predict what will be true a year from now, let alone five!
Second, most strategic plans tend to be theoretical in nature and so comprehensive and detailed (long), that they are neither easily actionable nor easy to revisit and revise–hence they sit on a shelf collecting dust.
I have personally led many organizations through extensive strategic planning processes. You can see my own model here. With good facilitation, it typically takes a dedicated team a couple of days to generate a passable draft plan, which can then receive feedback from additional stakeholders. Some keys to an effective strategic plan are that it be easily consumable for multiple audiences and actionable for those who are accountable to the plan. Therefore, it must be short, application oriented, and easily reviewed at least twice a year. Less is more and simple is better. And strategic plans ultimately must be supported by operational initiatives with their own action plans.
While developing a solid, actionable plan does take skilled facilitation, it is not rocket science. The model I use has been battle tested and is in use in many organizations. I have found it to be particularly user-friendly and can be used to augment or revise existing plans or to launch the process from scratch. If you are interested in facilitated strategic planning led by an expert, click here.