What are you doing in your strategy planning meet?

This is the season for organizations to think about their coming financial year. Considering today’s social and economical 800px-FEMA_-_35780_-_Federal_and_State_disaster_managers_work_on_strategic_planning_in_Iowaclimate, I will be surprised if there are companies that aren’t doing anything about their annual plans.  Though my teaching and consulting engagements gets me to be present at some of the senior management retreats or offsite annual planning,  I find very few to truly fall under the category of what they call themselves – “Strategic Planning Exercise”

While most CEOs seek to create strategies at these meets, most often it ends up in one of the following:

  1. Visioning – Much of the time is spent in creating a catchy slogan of a desirous future. This is followed by the efforts to make as many people buy into it.
  2. Performance Review and forecasting – Lot of effort goes in trying to figure what has fallen short and how to make up in the coming year. The reasons are very often created to justify performance.  There is lot of change in the organization with each year that passes and the one that comes by. A host of new measures are introduced with the hope that the organization will look better with them.
  3. Divisional budget Review and rollout: A typical consensus driven approach to make the overall plan gain commitment from the individual business unit heads. The individual goals are collected and added to create the institutional goals. This is a very passive way of setting the yearly targets.
  4. Ambitious BHAGs.  This is usually the more aggressive and positive view of the planning exercise.  Unfortunately many times what is thought of as BHAG is not really a BHAG but actually Big Hairy Audacious Statements of how one would like the future to be.

While each of the above tools/approaches have their very specific role in the organizational context  – none of these will result in a strategy for the organization. Planning is not strategizing. Goal setting is not planning. Then what is strategizing? I shall soon post my views on what I consider as strategy and strategising.

So the next time you conduct a senior management retreat, an annual planning exercise or a strategic offsite, you may want to rethink what you actually want to get out of the exercise.  And use the right tools, else you will be wanting something but getting something else!

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