Strategic thinking failures and how to avoid them

by Lee Hopkins on December 2, 2010 · 1 comment

in strategy

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The very clever Leo Bottary recently posited ten reasons why strategic thinking fails on the Vistage blog . Note: these are just ten reasons amongst a list that could number in the hundreds.

Amongst his ten reasons are these two gems:

5. Communication -  Most strategic-related communications, even if thoroughly planned and executed, are designed only to create clarity around what management wants the employees to do.  (Which by itself can be a tall order).   As a result, the communication efforts fall woefully short of the mark.   Good strategic communication should have one goal:  To make sure everyone in the company sees the strategic plan NOT as just the leadership’s plan, but as THEIR plan.   Failing that, you’re asking your employees to be more committed to your goals than their own.  Not sure that’s very realistic.

10. Bad Plan -  Sometimes plans fail because they are simply bad plans, and I would argue that they are often bad plans because we don’t tend to get everyone involved that we should.  We either fail to tap into the collective talents and dedication of our people or we misjudge the external environment and the response of our stakeholders.  It can make employees feel isolated and the leadership look out of touch.

As with the other eight reasons he posits, Leo is of course right; poor communication doesn’t help in getting a any plan to work, let alone a bad one.

Here’s another point Leo raises:

9. Bad Planning -  Make a list of the people in your organization who were involved in developing your last strategic plan.  Who were they?  How deep did you go in the organization?  How wide? What was the extent of their involvement?  OR, did the senior leadership team develop the plan on its own and then announce it to the organization?  How did that work for you?   Off-site huddles by the senior management team to develop a strategic plan often result in developing a plan that has no chance of success.

How many times have we, as employees, been given no say in a strategic plan other than to swear allegiance to the company?

Thankfully, Leo gives us some positive news. Not a point-by-point antidote to the above, but a way of strategically approaching strategic thinking that will make senior management chafe at the cost but be delighted with the end result.

Getting everyone involved in all three phases of the process will take longer than the typical weekend retreat.  No doubt about that, but if you take time to engage all your people in the thinking, planning and doing, then you’ll go a long way toward avoiding the most common problems I wrote about last week, including:

  • Having to announce a grand plan to your staff in that hope they’ll embrace it;
  • Implementing a plan that would run counter to your organization’s culture or talents;
  • Being unrealistic about what your entire team is prepared to do to achieve the goal;
  • A plan being construed as strictly the leadership’s plan;
  • Ineffective milestones and rewards – and the list goes on!

Might I (strongly) suggest that you peruse the two articles and contemplate how you might approach your own strategic thinking for your team/area/ department/company?

How to fail :: How to succeed


  • http://twitter.com/leobottary leobottary

    How very kind of you. Thanks!

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