Category Archives: Strategic Planning

Steps to Improve Strategic Planning

With the dawning of a New Year comes the planning for what lies ahead.

Often times its operational-level planning. The need to do X, then Y, and all going well we’ll do Z. Its tactical, its getting done what needs to be done.

And at other times we may well dive into the strategic plan and update that. We refresh the vision, make sure the mission is right, and then go about updating our strategic objectives and the related KPI’s.

But there is a whole lot more to the strategy process. For if strategic planning answers the “what will we do” and “how will we do it” questions, where do the following questions come into the picture?

  • what seems to be happening?
  • what’s really happening?
  • what might happen?
  • what might we need to do?

It seems as though these questions should be answered before we start to consider “what will we do” and “how will we do it”.

For ….

“What seems to be happening”? Do you look at trends, or ask subject matter experts for their views on what is happening, or even analyse what your competitors are doing?

“What’s really happening”? Then armed with this trend, market & competitor analysis do you then go one step further and think through all of these moving parts? Answering questions about relationships between all of these variables and causes of change.

“What might happen”? On the basis of this knowledge, do you then open the conversation back up to consider alternate futures? What scenarios could occur based on what is happening?

“What might we need to do”? And as a final step before deciding what to do, there are the reports, presentations and workshops to bring all those involved with the strategic planning together onto the same page

Answering these questions is the domain of strategic foresight. Its called strategic thinking, or futures work.

Its taking the time and effort to look beyond the normal course of events. Its about laying aside “business as usual thinking” and discovering what else might happen. Its about being open to possibilities that you either may not have considered or be comfortable with.

Its about improving your strategic planning to ensure long term success.

Are you open to considering a range of alternate futures?

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Why strategy and leadership are partners

On paper at least, its straightforward. Setting a strategy infers a capacity, or at least a desire to, influence the direction of a group.

And that word “influence” infers leadership.

So, what is leadership? My favourite quote, from John Haggai, is:

“Leadership is the discipline of deliberately exerting special influence within a group to move it toward goals of beneficial permanance that fulfill the group’s real needs.”

That leadership is all about influence. About deliberately exerting that influence.

That the aim of leadership is about outcomes. Those outcomes should be what the group’s real needs are.

And leadership is about legacy. Its about outcomes of permanence. Goals of beneficial permanence.

Thus, the arena of strategic planning is intertwined with the arena of leadership.

Now, we can get caught up in the types of leaders (autocratic, bureaucratic, charismatic, etc). And yes, we can start discussing the types of strategy (design, planning, positioning, emergent, and so on). We can even debate the types of intelligences that are best for leaders (analytical, cognitive, social, et al).

But when discussion and thinking turn to strategy. Part of that communication and reflection must include a recognition that at some point you will turn to an aspect of leadership.

 
For more, visit Dellium Advisory, follow on Twitter, connect using LinkedIn, or review my IT-centric blog.

Systems thinking

Developing strategy is often not a simple linear process. Its not “let’s do A, then B, then C”.

For you need to consider what the impacts are upon A, and what the other areas are that A will impact. For it just might be that A influences something which in turn makes C irrelevant.

Its called systems thinking. Its a way of thinking that considers all of the relationships between all of the components. And further, it considers the level and direction of influence that each of those components have on each other.

And systems are everywhere. There are interconnections between different businesses and between individuals within a business. We have a system of roads, of air & rail transport, and so on. There are systems within hospitals, within universities, and within emergency services providers. Think of a sporting club also as a system, even your family!

But what marks out a system? Its the flow of information, its the time delay between action and outcome, its the feedback loop between the output and input. Its the complexity derived from many interconnected parts.

Regarding the flow of information. How does information move from one part of the system to another? What external information comes into the system? What information is prevented from making its way around the parts of the system. And thinking about the profile of the information – is it always the same, are do the makeup of the messages transferred change from time to time?

Regarding time delays and feedback loops. How long does it take for an effect to be noticed? Do any outcomes loop back and change the next input?

So when developing strategy, think of the flow of information and think of the time difference between when something is started and when it will be finished. For when that 1 year, 3 year, or 5 year plan has come to pass the context of that plan’s completed state will be different to the current one. And the difference will be in part related to the mix and flow of information and changing influences throughout that 1, 3 or 5 year period.

For more, visit Dellium Advisory, follow on Twitter, connect using LinkedIn, or review my IT-centric blog.