Before Strategic Planning, Read This First


In a play off the words of Henry Nouwen, we believe “You can’t strategize your way into action, you have to take action on your strategy.’

We spend a lot of time addressing the topics of strategy and planning as they pertain to businesses, communities and organizations, helping them to create strategies and follow through on them.

The problem we see all to often is today’s strategic planning and comprehensive planning processes fall short of dealing the unknowns of reality and they lack the oomph (power, energy and attractiveness) to achieve real results.   More often than not, strategic planning efforts can’t adjust to changing technology and fail in their execution.

If your business, community or organization is about to embark on a new “strategic plan” or “comprehensive plan,” we suggest reading two articles that point out why what’s become labeled “strategic planning” doesn’t work.  Then we suggest you work with an outside firm that will advise you on how to avoid the failures of strategic planning as we’ve come to know it.

First, in a 2014 Harvard Business Review article titled “The Big Lie of Strategic Planning,” Roger Martin addresses the common misconception between what strategy is versus what planning is and why ‘strategic planning’ comes up short.

On typical strategic planning processes, Martin says:

This is a truly terrible way to make strategy. It may be an excellent way to cope with fear of the unknown, but fear and discomfort are an essential part of strategy making. In fact, if you are entirely comfortable with your strategy, there’s a strong chance it isn’t very good.

Second, in a March 2014 article for Forbes titled, “The Death of Strategic Planning,” Bill Conerly addresses the inability of strategic plans to be flexible and responsive to change.

In describing the inflexibility of strategic planning, Conerly says:

The central problem, of course, was that the future didn’t cooperate. In 2008, the economy dove when it was supposed to fly. Technology drove the world in surprising directions. For example, importing liquefied natural gas looked great until technology made exporting look even greater.. Social attitudes sometimes changed too quickly for business, as when companies went bankrupt due to the uproar over pink slime (or “finely textured beef”).

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