Testing a Strategic Plan

Warning!  This "pearl" could cause you a great deal of trouble.  The reasoning involved seems inescapable to me, but the consequences are anathma to most people. To me, this topic has been one of great frustration.  See what you think as you get into this.

So here is the reasoning:

  1. The principal aim of strategic planning is resource allocation.  If you had infinite resources, you could do everything and would not have to choose what to do.  Hence, you would not need a strategic plan.  But, since resources in the real world are limited, it is necessary to choose what actions will receive your resources.  This choice among alternative actions is called a strategic plan.

  2. The direct implication of making these choices is that there will be actions/alternatives which are de-emphasized or which are planned to receive no resources.

  3. Therefore, a good test of whether you have a strategic plan is whether you can exhibit the list of things you will not do or which you will de-emphasize.

I have suggested preparing such a list to strategic planning sessions on several occasions, as a way to show that a strategic plan had, in fact, been developed.  I have never succeeded in getting such a list to be prepared! This is astonishing to me.  Why is this?  People seem willing to show enthusiasm for chosen thrusts and will even actually emphasize them in their actions.  But they resist strongly having their freedom constrained by having to concur with a list of things they will not do.  They basically think that they can adopt the strategic plan and still have the freedom to do what they want.  The strategic plan thus becomes a matter of mild emphasis for them rather than a real plan.  While I can understand the human nature that would cause this to be the reaction to strategic planning, I wonder whether this might be the reason so many strategic plans fail to have much impact and why so many strategies fail.

The lesson in all this is that you need to be alert to strategic planning that really isn't strategic planning.  You can try to make such sessions and plans more meaningful by introducing the above line of reasoning.  I hope you will have better success than I did in making it actually happen!  Good luck.