September 21, 2022

Top Mistakes Made By Strategic Planners

by Mike O'Neill

When you think about strategic planning, who’s involved? Is it a team of executives or more inclusive of employees at all levels?

Are their strategies complicated or simple?

Often, peoples’ eyes glaze over when they hear about strategic planning because it’s known to be complex and confusing. Sometimes it’s all talk with no action. The plan itself might be straightforward, but the execution is elusive and hard for employees to understand.

Strategic planning is a big undertaking for key decision makers in manufacturing companies, but the best ones know that the process doesn’t have to be complicated.

Good facilitators help develop strategic plans that are not only straightforward but executable, too. They know how to bring the team to a level of consensus by giving everyone a voice without letting one dominate. The resulting strategies are realistic, manageable, and clear. 

Good facilitators inspire teams. When employees can individually build and contribute to the plan, they own it, too, and it becomes their initiative and goals, too. They’ll now be active members of your planning team and help you achieve success with enthusiasm.

By facilitating strategic planning for over 35 years through managing large HR organizations and owning businesses, I have developed a practical approach to planning that removes confusion and elusiveness.

Instead of just strategizing, I work with clients to implement an operative plan that focuses on specific actions in the current quarter or year rather than reaching for goals 3-5 years in the future.

My approach is more practical, easier to understand, and easier to communicate. This is because I take into account your individual employees, your leadership team, the company culture, and the measurable outcomes of your achievement goals. 

As an HR expert, I’ve seen a lot of poor strategic planning that ran out of steam early and failed to motivate employees to commit to the initiative. Planners assume they need long, detailed initiatives to get their points across and fully inform employees of their tactics. The enormity of the task might daunt them.

Strategic planning doesn’t have to be hard if you make it operative. When you make it a process instead of a general plan or vision, you and your team can tackle and then celebrate small successes to continue motivating them to move forward. 

When you develop your next strategic plan, avoid making the five mistakes below that are common culprits for lackluster and inconsistent initiatives. I’ll tell you how to fix them and give you resources at the end to achieve your goals with effective and manageable planning processes.

Five Planning Mistakes

  1. Too many strategic goals are implemented at once

Many businesses are excited to implement strategic planning, which is a good thing, but it becomes overwhelming when they set too many goals at one time. 

Taking on too many goals at once may seem ambitious, but it’s counterproductive. When you develop strategic planning goals, you also have to develop the goals’ components like:

  • Sequences
  • Programs
  • Initiatives
  • Deliverables
  • Activities

As you can see, one strategic goal has branched into at least five different processes for achieving it, all of which have to be implemented at every level of the organization. And each process requires its own planning, development, and execution, all of which are time-consuming.

For that reason, start out with only three goals. It’s OK to take on five, but make sure you can successfully handle three before adding any more. 

Coming up with strategic goals is the easy part. You want to achieve many things with your business, so your list is endless. The hard part comes when discipline is required to choose which three goals are most important and prioritize them in a way that can be easily managed and achieved.

  1.  Strategic goals aren’t tied to measurable outcomes

If you have a list of goals that aren’t being monitored by measurable outcomes, the concept becomes hard for employees to understand and contribute towards. 

It’s hard to implement a plan only when it’s a big picture, like “increasing revenue.” It has to be executable.

Instead of setting a goal for “increased revenue,” calculate an achievable percent increase and keep track of it as time goes on. Whatever the outcome is, make sure it’s clearly defined from a measurable standpoint.

One example of a clearly defined outcome is a 20% total revenue increase from quarters 1 to 2. Tell your employees exactly how you’re measuring the outcome, too, which can look like an explanation of the calculations used to determine revenue growth.

No matter your goal or measurable outcomes, they need to be easy to access and understand for every level of your organization, not just in the C-Suite. Good goals are valuable because they propel action and achievement from managers and employees, the ones who actually do the work to get there. 

  1.  Employees aren’t aware of strategic plans.

All too often, employees are left in the dark when it comes to the inner mechanisms of strategic goal planning. This means they probably don’t know the plan's specific methods, timelines, and deliverables or only have a loose idea of them.

When you don’t consider your individual employees when strategizing, your plan will not play out the way you want it to, and it will break down, lose momentum, or fail completely. 

Your employees should be essential parts of your strategic planning. Their involvement can be as small as participating in a company-wide survey to big tasks like creating the action steps and performance measures specific to their departments. 

When you or your departments develop these action plans and performance measures, make sure they are all detailed and directly related to achieving the strategic goal. 

Communicate these strategies with your organization, so everyone is on the same page. When everyone can see the big picture and know their individual places within it, their enthusiasm and cooperation with your strategic plans will surprise you.

  1. Performance measures are misaligned with your goals

Tying your strategic goals to measurable outcomes is half the challenge, but you also have to ensure the performance measures are relevant.

Consult your employees’ specific job descriptions and responsibilities to determine which are relevant. Identify the measurable ones that directly impact your goal achievement and begin tracking their progress. The database you create of these performance measures will become your tracking database where you can see exactly how your employees are contributing to your strategic goals. 

Some of these outcomes you can track are yield measures, throughput, and overall equipment effectiveness. Hand these numbers over to their respective departments and task them with monitoring their own numbers, too, so you can keep each other accountable.

If you’re using incentives to motivate your team, they should be strong enough to empower all levels of your organization. You need everyone’s cooperation for your plan to work, and by showing your extra investment into their work, they’ll do what you need them to do. 

When it’s time to tell your employees what to do, lay out your database of measurable job duties, so everyone can see exactly what they’re doing to execute the strategic plan. As I mentioned before, feeling included in the big-picture plan for the company inspires employees to do their best. Seeing how important their individual efforts are will amplify their enthusiasm even further.

Although coordinating the right performance measures adds a touch of complexity, it’s vital for goal achievement. Your plan simply won’t succeed if it’s not being measured properly.

  1.  Strategic plans are made without considering company culture

Your company’s culture is its lifeblood. It determines how the business functions, how job duties are completed, and how employees interact with each other.

When you align your strategies and tactics with the workplace culture, employees will be more likely to cooperate with you in achieving company goals. This is the best way to get your team on board with your strategic plans.

To do this, start by explaining why you made your strategic plans. Why exactly are you shooting for a specific ROI this quarter? Make your why extremely clear, and your employees will be more likely to support you.

Next, audit your company’s performance often. Priorities naturally change, and leaders have to adjust for them, but regular check-ins keep everyone on the same page. This benefits the culture by creating a sense of cohesiveness and accountability.

Employees that feel included and valued at work perform better and stay at your company longer. So when the culture is good, you can rely on your trusted, loyal employees to help you achieve all of your strategic goals. 

Conclusion

Using my operative approach to strategic planning, decision-makers will successfully work with their team to develop executable, effective, and coherent plans. 

I want to demystify strategic planning by showing people that it’s not as complicated as they think. There’s no need to manage a huge list of long-term goals or leave planning to just a few people; all you have to do is be clear, concise, and operative. 

Simply schedule a call with me, and I’ll evaluate your current plan or help you develop a new one. You’ll be achieving your company’s goals quickly and paving the way for future successes.

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