The art and science of strategic planning has come a long way. In the early days of my career in management, a strategic plan was something the boss created. If you were lucky, he shared it with you. If you were luckier, he pointed out how the plan took you and your work into consideration. Moreover, the organization was fortunate if either of you remembered it a year or two down the line.
Today’s strategic planning process looks much different. Or at least it should. Organizational leadership today recognizes that stakeholders throughout the hierarchy have insights and information essential to the success of the business and finds ways to elicit input from every person. While this is not always easy to do, it results in a rich and effective planning process. In addition, leaders and managers who want the strategic plan to comprise the fabric of the organization make sure that progress towards goals is routinely communicated to all stakeholders.
Which brings me to my final, crucial point: Although strategic plans cover a long-term vision for the firm, a strong and relevant strategic plan is a working plan, not a document to be developed and archived for 3-5 years. It should be reviewed and evaluated at least annually. Progress towards goals should be assessed frequently and routinely, and the objectives and strategies amended if goals are not being achieved. The strategic planning process is never completed. It navigates and documents and organization’s journey. It is both the map towards the organization’s future and the guiding beacon that leads the way.