You have a vision. You have a mission. You know where your company is heading, and you’ve created a strategic plan that will guide your steps.
But is it enough?
We’ve looked at the 5 Steps to Creating a Strategic Plan in 48 Hours, and now it’s time to talk about what could go wrong in the process, or the top three pitfalls of strategic planning. It is important to go back and read through your plan when you’ve written it and check for and correct these pitfalls.
1. Vague Action Steps
Likely the most common pitfall in strategic planning is creating a plan with vague action steps. Your action steps should dictate what you do every morning, so they can’t be ambiguous ideas. They must create a clear framework that spotlight your goals.
You can create concrete action steps by beginning with your vague idea. Let’s say, for example, that your company is lacking in leadership legacy. To combat this and ensure there is a well-defined avenue to leadership, one of your strategic planning objectives might be to create a leadership pipeline.
If you stop there, if you make your action step, “Create a leadership pipeline,” you are writing an elusive concept that you will struggle to accomplish. It’s a great objective, but it is not an action step in and of itself.
Instead, you need to draft tangible stages to create the leadership pipeline. Your strategic plan then may look more like this:
Objective 1: Create a Leadership Pipeline
- Draw a hierarchy diagram for each position in the company.
- Determine which position would directly funnel into higher level positions.
- Begin training on DAY, YEAR from top down that will ensure every role has a second person who knows the job.
- Perform 30-day audit to assess training program success.
- Metrics of Success
- Second person knows basics of position directly above them.
- Second person feels comfortable with the position if the person above them is out (perform survey)
- Full training on processes is at 60% or greater
- Metrics of Success
Creating functional steps will direct your actions and help you avoid a roadmap that tells you where you’re going, but not how to get there.
2. Lack of Accountability
Your strategic plan is looking good. You’ve made a dynamic, actionable plan that is sure to help your organization achieve its mission. But you forgot to detail the WHO. Who will be responsible for ensuring each action step is taken? Who is overseeing each objective? Who will perform the measurements needed to assess success of the strategic goals?
As Susan Heathfield says in her blog, Strategic Planning Pitfalls to Avoid, “Without a follow-up framework and accountability system, action items and follow-up plans and actions that make the execution of the strategic plan a success, don’t happen.”
In other words: You can’t follow a map if everyone is driving and no one is ensuring the correct turns are taken!
To guarantee accountability, you should begin by getting everyone in leadership on the same page. Each person in leadership is an integral part of accomplishing the strategic plan, and they must be ready for the buck to stop with them. Not all action items need to be assigned to leadership for accountability though.
In the Create a Leadership Pipeline example, the VP of HR might be the one that does final assessment on whether a successful leadership pipeline is established, but he or she won’t necessarily be accountable for each item. Instead, this should involve others in HR or your training division. For example, item 1.1 might be assigned to the Administrative Assistant while item 1.3 will be headed by the Director of E-Learning and item 1.4 is assigned to the Director of Talent.
To capitalize on engagement with the plan and avoid pitfall number 2, consider allowing each team to come up with accountability measures for strategic goals themselves. Your people will be much more likely to complete their tasks if they have some control over what they do.
3. Lethargic Leadership
Leadership that is on board with change and excited to execute the strategic plan is perhaps the most crucial part of achieving results. The axiomatic knowledge that nothing gets done when leadership doesn’t care especially applies to strategy and planning. Your executive and management teams are the backbone of implementation without whom the rest of the body will not work.
In her article Has Strategy Changed?, Kathleen Eisenhardt says that the leader must embed strategy in the organization by choosing an exceptional team, picking the right roles, and letting the team make the strategic moves. With such an essential part in the strategy, you must make certain the organization’s leadership is prepared to take on the strategic plan as if they had written it themselves.
One way to do this is to have a meeting with leadership after you’ve written your strategic goals. Present the mission and vision to the team and listen to their evaluation of it. Have them each write down the most important step they believe must be accomplished to achieve the vision. You might be surprised to discover how similar their ideas are to yours, or how revolutionary their ideas are!
Do more than listening though. Take their ideas and allow them the opportunity to flesh them out. Your leadership team may be sitting on concepts that will fly you into the lead in the market. Without involving them in the strategic planning, you risk falling into the tunnel vision that limits innovation and leads to lethargic leadership.
For guidance regarding Constructive Feedback, Performance Management, Employee Relations, Leadership and Executive Coaching and Development, and all things “HR”, The Pendolino Group is here to support you and your team. Contact us today!