Strategic planning – are we there yet?

Occasionally my daughter and I talk about what she’d like to do and what her purpose is in life. She often rolls her eyes and sends me packing. If I hang in there long enough, she eventually engages.  Many times it is the same answer, I don’t know, Da. She’s a great kid and has her own set of unique talents. I don’t discourage. I encourage. It’s what fathers do. Sometimes we do this with finesse and sometimes…not so much.

With roles reversed, she, like other children during long-distance trips, incessantly asks whether or not we’ve reached our destination. Like countless fathers before me, I respond with that intolerable retort:  ”We’re there…when we’re there.”

“Ugh.” It echoes around the vehicle. It’s delightful. I know I’m in the right family when I hear that wonderful sound.

Strategic planning prides itself on being this elusive, black-box contrivance that only a select few in the organization have access to (the mom and dad in the front seat, if you will). Not only that, those that are engaged in this process consider themselves to be extraordinary, a cut above, and untouchable. I know because I used to think this way myself. These days, this I-have-my-hand-on-the-dial approach to strategy has been diluted by the ubiquitous nature of all sorts of information – marketplace, operational, and financial. This is not different from my daughter having her own personal communication device. Head down. Oblivious. Thinks she has figured it out. It’s not that easy, but it is easier.

Now, that’s not to say that there is not some, ahem, higher ground associated with strategic planning. After all, the word strategic does appear in the phrase strategic planning. There are strategies and tactics that deserve privacy and secrecy. There are conversations about business units and budgets and talent that require discretion. The argument here is that some of those conversations are not strategic in nature at all, but are more about project execution and project management. The “are-we-there-yet?” malaise of companies has everything to do with how strategic planning unfolds, how it is communicated, and when it is executed.

That’s right. When. Not so much how or how well, but when.

What are you doing today to get there? By asking in this manner, I don’t suggest doing anything haphazardly. No shortcuts. No “cracking skulls.” No indecent deadlines. More of what we need in the strategy cycle is unrestrained focus on the when. Consistency and concentration. As leaders, our purpose is to get others involved in the when. They should be asking about whether or not we are there yet.

But what about the why and the what? Ah yes. These, too, are very important components. I suggest that they should be rote. You should know them cold. You should carry them with you as a marsupial carries its young. Oftentimes we know what to do and why to do it. We need the zen of when. Are you there yet?

P.S. If you are still working on the why or the what or even the when yourself, then please do give us a call. We’ll help you get there, with appropriate rest stops and no tourist traps.