Strategic plans are a deception
Here's what to do instead: less planning, more steering.
Every December, leadership teams spend long days locked in a room, breathing recycled air, squinting against fluorescent lighting, and questioning our life choices as they discuss and debate next year's "strategic plan."
Loads of data are gathered, slides are revised (and revised), and wish lists are honed and packaged by the fat end of the pyramid. Then, those at the top represent the work of those they manage, sometimes Hunger Games-style, as they negotiate with cross-functional peers.
Nailing a strategic plan after days of debate and too much coffee is a great high. It’s easy to believe an organization is moments away from becoming shiny and new. A bright, lucrative future where ambitions are realized, the market responds, and dreams come true? Yes, please!
But feelings of accomplishment and certainty fade when these lofty fantasies contact reality: The company hasn’t changed. And that beautiful, well-interrogated, fussed-over strategic plan we committed to? It’s a shared deception.
In her brilliant article, How Adaptive Strategy Happens, my colleague Rodney Evans shares a few of the 'secrets' of how we help our clients do strategy at The Ready. Spoiler alert: adaptive strategy is a lot less about planning and a lot more about steering.
The four core practices that help adaptive strategy come to life are:
Review the OS: Consider how an organization's way of working needs to change to adapt its new strategy.
Essential Intent: define a concrete and inspiring point on the horizon you're aiming for
Even/Overs: decide what NOT to do by making trade-offs explicit
90-day Outcomes: articulate the impact we intend to make, and review & course-correct every 90 days
Over the last five years, I've used these practices with our clients hundreds of times, and they work. Reach out if you want to discuss how this could work for you!
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