There are many mistakes organizations, teams, and individuals can make when it comes time to create a plan; too many goals, wrong goals, not
enough data, wrong people at the table to create the plan. In addition, all plans - whether they are strategic, project, succession, organizational
development, or personal career and/or development plans - are subject to the possible fate of being created then quickly shelved, abandoned, or simply mucked up.
Several recent and insightful articles provide guidance on how to develop the strategic skills or competencies to create a plan. Along with these is an article I wrote in my last newsletter: 5 Tips for Creating an Executable Strategic Plan that draws heavily from The 4 Disciplines of Execution from Stephen Covey (R.I.P.). Here are synopses of three thought-provoking articles on Strategy, Planning, and Leadership
1. From Harvard we get new research questioning how“Strategy” has become separated from “Leadership”. In this article, “Are You a Strategist?” by Cynthia Montgomery she describes how strategy has moved away from the work of leadership, and an organization’s larger sense of purpose, to an analytical and formulaic exercise. “Strategy has become more about formulation than implementation, and more about getting the analysis right at the outset than living with a strategy over time," Montgomery says. "As a consequence, it has less to do with leadership than ever before."
Key Takeaways: For a leader, becoming a strategist starts with getting clear on why, whether, and to whom your company matters. An organization’s continued existence depends on constantly finding a compelling reason for it to exist. “Shepherding this never-ending process, being the steward of a living strategy, is the defining responsibility of a leader.” Montgomery’s goal is to embolden top leaders to embrace the role of strategist and develop their strategy skills. However, she also points out that it's important for employees at all levels of an organization to start thinking like strategists and begin now to build those strategy muscles.
2. McKinsey & Co in their Quarterly publication has an article, Managing the Strategy Journey, that suggests the senior leadership team (I’d add the Board for a nonprofit) must do several big things when undertaking the strategy development journey. The starting point of the journey is for the leadership team to increase the time they spend together discussing strategy to at least match the time they spend together on
operating issues. (Nonprofit Boards and Leaders are you listening?)
“Strategy is about the actions you take. Therefore, one of the highest priorities of a top-management strategy forum is to ensure disciplined implementation of key strategic initiatives. A big advantage of the journey approach is that the process of debating and deciding on changes in strategic direction helps top-management teams (again, I’d add Boards) get behind the new direction, particularly if the CEO holds the entire team collectively accountable for accomplishing it.” Look here for Mckinsey’s exhibit of a process to move from strategic ideas to operating realities.
The article also points out the importance of linking strategy to budgeting and forecasting, “the key is to take a disciplined approach to converting strategies into actions that can be incorporated in financial plans and operating budgets. One important capability that companies must develop to do this well is rolling forecasting and budgeting, so that needed investments can be made in a timely manner rather than waiting for the next annual planning cycle.”
3. And finally, a great article from Inc. describes the 6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers. Adaptive strategic leaders - the kind who thrive in today's uncertain environment - do six things well:
2. Think Critically and Question Everything
3. Interpret (seek patterns, test multiple hypothesis)
4. Decide (Balance speed, rigor, quality, and agility. Take a stand even
with incomplete information and amid diverse views.)
5. Align (Foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders,
especially when views diverge)
6. Learn (seek honest feedback, conduct rigorous debriefs)