When strategy is left out of strategic planning

February 23, 2011

Filed under: Strategic Planning — Tags: — jonathanpoisner @ 4:38 pm

I’ve recently had a chance to read some strategic plans that seem to be missing a critical piece: strategy.

They have mission statements, vision, goals, and tactics.  But what’s missing is anything in writing making the case that the tactics or programs they’re projecting to do will lead to accomplishing the goals (or outcomes) they hope to achieve .

To be sure, my guess is that if you queried these organizations, staff and board members could probably make explicit the implicit assumptions in their plans.

But I say “write it down.”  Make it explicit and put it into the plan, if only for the benefit of future board members and staff members who were not part of the “retreat” where decisions were made.

Aside from the benefit to future organizational leaders, my experience is that in some cases, many of the disagreements organizations face during planning retreats stem from underlying disagreements about these strategic assumptions that lay behind the thinking of individual retreat participants.

Without making these assumptions explicit, it’s easier for people to talk past each other.   You wind up getting stuck and resorting to dots on a butcher block paper or some other exercise (many of which are useful in some contexts) to get people to vote, but without achieve a true consensus about what you’re going to do and, perhaps as importantly, why you’re going to do it.

If you don’t achieve consensus on the “why” part, you’re much more likely to have disagreements down the road when things don’t go as planned and your staff and board must adjust their work plans.

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