Multi-Year Strategic planning, when it is done right, provides benefits to the organization during the actual planning process. Most importantly, it creates long-term benefits by providing a road map to organizational success.
It is unfortunate that the process of creating strategic plans have developed such a bad rap. The usual complaints include: “the process was endless”, “we never found any strategic in strategic planning”, “it was always a paper chase”, “nobody believed that it was real”. I am sure you can add other negative descriptions of past strategic planning initiatives.
The good news, however, is that Strategic Planning doesn’t have to be like Buckley’s Cough medicine – it doesn’t have to taste bad to be good. Strategic Planning need not be endless, frustrating or meaningless.
In another blog article I wrote that an ideal planning system is:
- Not time consuming
- Easy to do
- Aids your job performance; and
- Drives overall organizational success.
Get Some Outside Help for a multi-year plan
To ensure your chances of experiencing these positive attributes you should start by engaging a business facilitator with a track record and who has a proven system for enabling a team to create a plan in a few days at most. It is my belief, which is borne out of hundreds of client sessions, that if you put the right people from your organization in a room, you will have more than 95% of the information required to assemble a multi-year plan. You then need someone to manage the discussions in a manner that produces consensus on the opportunities and critical issues facing your organization.
Work Within a Structure
As a client, you need to know at the outset how the plan will be organized. There are numerous frameworks in the marketplace to create a multi-year strategic plan. We use a Strategic Framework that includes six elements.
We like this Strategic Framework because each of these elements will become guideposts throughout the life of the plan. There is no excess detail.
A seasoned strategic plan facilitator will not only work within a structure to assemble a plan but will have a process that economizes on time and helps the planning team produce the right outputs. In my experience, two days is the outside limit of people’s patience to participate in planning sessions. It is also the amount of time that is usually required to generate the desired content. Any valid process will go through some form of “blue-skying” about the future, undertake a critical analysis of where we are today, and generate ideas for creating a promising future. The planning team should not have to worry about how this will be done. That is the responsibility of the facilitator. The planning team’s responsibility is to intensely engage in the substantive discussions.
What Constitutes Multi?
How many years are necessary to include within the plan? The answer is t
hat it depends. It depends on the nature of the organization’s environment. How fast do conditions change and how rapidly does the organization need to respond?
If the organization is an industry or professional association, looking out four years or more may make sense. If it is a business that is providing services or products with a cycle of only a few years, maybe two years is as far out as one can plan. On the other hand, many industries with huge infrastructure investments involving products that take decades to develop and sell may need five-year horizons for the plan to make sense.
When do we Revise the Plan?
How cast in stone should each of the elements of a Strategic Framework be? Here are a few considerations.
- The Vision Statement should be durable throughout the multi-year planning period.
- The Pillars of Success should only change if something radical happens in the competitive landscape.
- The Strategic Objectives may be recalibrated if it becomes clear the organization is not focused on the right outcomes.
- Measures follow Strategic Objectives, so there may be a necessity to adopt new or revised Measures to track progress appropriately.
- New Key Initiatives will be identified as other projects are wound up and new challenges and opportunities emerge.