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Focus on these things to succeed in Executive Leadership / General Management

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Strategic Planning


By David Shaffer, Business Advisor & Executive Coach, David Shaffer Consulting LLC

Strategic planning, for many companies represent the classic definition of an oxymoron.  For far too many companies, the annual process is neither strategic nor does it incorporate meaningful planning. To jump in a car and start a vacation with a general idea of the destination, but no specific route or budget in mind, is most likely something most of us would not do, particularly if the well-being of our family was at stake. But year after year, under the protective label of “Strategic Planning” it is precisely what occurs in countless businesses. Strategic planning, when done correctly, provides a direction, purpose and a foundation for all team members working toward a common goal. Like the well-planned vacation, it creates enthusiasm and purpose that all can share.

So what constitutes the bad and ugly of strategic planning? With apologies for hitting close to home, it falls in such statements as:

  • Let’s do what we did last year only add 10% to the budget
  • Make sure the plan has sufficient content to justify the retreat
  • Make sure we discuss the plan quarterly – it is indeed a necessary action
  • It is a long way to December so not to worry about the slow start
  • If we target enough areas we are certain to balance out in the long run
  • If only customer A, B and C had hit the sales we were expecting …….
  • What do you think the stakeholders want to hear?
  • Our mission is clear – any questions – it is right on the wall where it has always been

Sounds familiar, welcome to the world of bad and ugly – you can add to the list to determine your best classification.

Let’s contrast to some elements that prove to make the process and output of strategic planning fall in the category of good. Under proper facilitation, the outcome will include:

  • Re-affirmation of vision, mission and values to test the viability of your actions
  • A real understanding of what is working and what is not
  • Multiple financial scenarios to prepare for the unexpected
  • Definition of the critical few action items that will constitute the areas of focus
  • Assigned responsibilities, measurements and accountability to the critical few
  • Definition of growth initiatives that are budgeted including well-defined target outcomes
  • Assurance that the entire team is trained and on-board with their goals and responsibilities
  • Regularly scheduled review meetings to measure goal attainment – no excuse for cancellation
  • Clear definition of appropriate corrective actions
  • A process that is fun and constructive rather than an edict


Successful strategic planning is one that allows you to take control of your destiny, define and measure expectations rather than looking back and saying ………… if only!


Written by David Shaffer,
Executive Leadership/GM Expert for ManagingAmericans.com, Business Advisor & Executive Coach, David Shaffer Consulting LLC


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