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Strategic Planning: Avoid These Costly Mistakes

A well-crafted strategic plan is vital to keeping your entire organization on track with short-term and long-range goals. It ensures that your company stays competitive and relevant by focusing on the right initiatives in the right order. 

When done well, the strategic planning process captures the creativity, knowledge, and expertise of the right people, so that your final action plan will drive innovation and growth.

When strategic planning does not go so well, however, the valuable time of your executive leadership team is wasted, and your end result isn’t a plan that is going to move your company forward.

The difference between a strategic plan that will result in growth and one that just keeps your team busy is the process you use to craft your plan. Your approach to strategic planning matters. Here are 3 common mistakes that I see companies making in their approach to the strategic planning process and how you can avoid them. 

Strategic Planning Mistake 1: The Siloed Approach

The first major mistake companies make in the strategic planning process is allowing each executive leader to draft their plan for their team on their own. When the leader makes the plan themselves or the team makes the plan without considering their company or peer objectives, you will be dealing with an uphill battle to integrate all of those plans. Each department has challenges and projects that will impact - and be impacted by - other departments. In the siloed approach, each department sets their goals as if they stand alone.

business leaders sitting at table in strategic planning meeting

This approach might seem to offer time-savings by allowing work to be done before the leadership team gets into the planning meeting. But once all together, a significant portion of your time will be spent adjusting and compromising to get everyone closer to the same page. Not only will your meeting be inefficient and run longer than needed, but egos will be bruised and attitudes will be soured as individuals bristle over what they’ve lost in the negotiations.

When strategic planning meetings are run effectively, it actually saves time to do all the work with all the right people in the same room. The key is how those meetings are run.

When I work with clients, there is no pre-work for our workshops. I use specific exercises that draw out the best ideas from your team and everyone hears those responses immediately. If friction arises from competing priorities from different departments, those can be addressed right away. This process ends up being much more efficient than starting with draft plans created individually.

Strategic Planning Mistake 2: Extroverts Only

Whenever a group of people get together, the extroverts tend to thrive while the introverts often wilt. Extroverts are not inherently aggressive or unwilling to listen. They are simply most comfortable when they are around other people, and so they have no problem openly sharing their thoughts. Introverts are not inherently passive or unwilling to speak. They simply aren’t within their comfort zone and may need more time and encouragement to share.

Have you ever concluded a strategic planning meeting, believing that everyone is on the same page and moving in the same direction, only to get conflicting feedback from a key leader days or weeks later?

If they disagreed, or had different ideas, why didn’t they speak up during the meeting? Most likely, your leader is someone who isn’t comfortable competing to be heard in a crowd or who needs more time to think. This is often correlated with an introverted personality. They need time alone to evaluate everything that was discussed before they can fully articulate their own perspective.

Strategic planning needs to incorporate the full brilliance of the team you’ve built. When running workshops with clients, the exercises I use are intentionally designed to get ideas from everyone. Regardless of their personality, each participant is given the opportunity to contribute in a way that is most comfortable to them.

When ideas come from everyone, not only does everyone feel included and invested, but your end result is better. Different personalities can both identify different types of problems and approach those problems with possible solutions from various angles. All those creative ideas are needed for you to find your growth path forward.

Strategic Planning Mistake 3: Opinion Over Substance

Bringing your top leaders together for strategic planning is an expensive endeavor. Especially if people are traveling and spending a few days in sessions, it’s important to make the time worthwhile. Without the proper process, once everyone gets in the room, the strategic planning quickly devolves into mere discussions without any decisions.

Your leaders have all gotten where they are because they are adept at forming opinions and implementing their ideas. Their input is highly valuable to the organization’s success! But when you’re dealing with a group of high achievers, it takes a bit more work to get real collaboration out of everyone. If you have ever concluded a few days of strategic planning meetings feeling as though you didn’t accomplish anything, you know that you can’t afford to do that again.

It takes intentionality and skill to identify the necessary discussions and filter out the distractions.

When facilitating workshops, I know when it’s time to cut a conversation off because it’s leading down an unproductive path and when to keep pushing because a solution is right around the corner.

For an executive team that is so invested in the company, it can be challenging to stay out of the weeds and keep conversations focused and high-level. This is where an outside perspective really makes an impact.  I ask specific questions to keep the team on track and push them past reiterating the same thing repeatedly. This means that your strategic planning process uses everyone’s time wisely and gives you the return you need.

Involve A Workshop Professional in Your Strategic Planning Process

Your industry is only getting more competitive. You know that you need to keep innovating so that your company can stay relevant and grow. Your strategic plan should be the roadmap to get you there. But can you honestly say that your approach in the past has given you the final product you needed?

A strategic plan that is a clear, actionable roadmap, identifying the top initiatives in the right order to get you to where you need to be is a worthwhile investment. Working with a professional who has successfully done this process many times over can be the difference between your company limping along for another year and finally breaking through your growth goals.

I facilitate strategic planning workshops for companies so that they can find creative solutions to the challenges preventing them from growing. My workshops are highly focused, deeply intentional, and designed to deliver the plan you need.

Want to launch your team into growth mode in your strategic planning process for next year? Schedule your discovery call today.

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