Strategic Planning: There’s No Silver Bullet – Twelve Tips for Value and Results


According to the legend, David McCanles called Wild Bill Hickok out to duel. Hickok walked out into the street and fired one shot – at a distance of 75 yards – killing McCanles instantly. Shoot now, aim later worked well for Wild Bill in his situation. It doesn’t work so well for leaders who need to define and execute significant changes for business growth and success.

Creating a new strategic plan is a big deal.

Here are some essential considerations if you expect to build a viable strategic plan that gets executed.

  • Accept that you aren’t Wild Bill and there is no silver bullet. To do this well takes a comprehensive effort and commitment to a solid process - including the time and resources necessary to achieve success.
  • Include the right players. This includes those with ultimate accountability for leading execution and subject matter experts when and as needed. Consider also including a high potential leader from a lower level for whom this would be a great development opportunity. Depending on your organization, there may also be an opinion leader whose involvement can eliminate barriers to execution.
  • Get participants ready to contribute. It is common for executive teams to be unaccustomed to working together in the way that is essential to creating a great strategic plan. In a good process, discussions are dynamic and sometimes contentious. Legacy and personal styles can get in the way. Turf protection can be a barrier. There are varying levels of communication and ego involvement. A solid process sets individuals and the team up to succeed.
  • Trust the process. There will be parts of a robust strategic planning process that you may not enjoy. Do it anyway. There also should be some fun in the process. Remember, however, that this is hard work. You are defining the future of your business. Employees and shareholders are depending on you to do it well.
  • Challenge assumptions. The volume and velocity of change can make what was true yesterday untrue tomorrow. Identify your assumptions and check their validity.
  • Take a guided tour through the external environment. Opportunities to take and risks to be mitigated exist in the realities of the world over which we have no control. It takes a robust process to make sure nothing is missed. Be ready to think beyond.
  • Know what you are and dream of what you can be. This applies to both your leadership team and the business. Both may need to be something different to achieve your vision. Be ready to let go of status-quo.
  • This is about “what” not “how.” Discussions about how an initiative will be done come after clearly defining what the initiative is. Avoid being pulled into the weeds of “how” – that’s for tactical execution. It’s too easy to talk yourselves out of committing to the right future-defining initiative if the challenge of “how” gets in the way.
  • Resist the temptation to vote. Creating a strategic plan should be a collaborative process. It includes dynamic, high energy, and even heated discussions. Resist the urge to settle impasse with a vote. The history books are full of examples where the majority was flat wrong. Take the time to understand both what people think and why they think it. Someone ultimately has the authority to make and accept accountability for that decision. If you are that person, do not do so too soon.
  • Accept the price of admission. Energy, enthusiasm and an eye to the future are expected of all players. Being a self-appointed persistent devil’s advocate is not good, yet diverse opinion is essential. Argue your point with passion and reason. It is ok to disagree with the direction that is ultimately taken. Then you must switch gears. Support the direction chosen. Otherwise you can no longer be a leader in the business. Passive-aggressive saboteurs do not belong on a professional leadership team.
  • Belly up to the bar individually and hold each other accountable. Being a leader in an aligned team of smart, competent colleagues committed to each other and the business is fun and satisfying hard work. It is essential to making the good stuff happen that creates the future of the business.
  • Celebrate progress and recognize personal and team contributions. Recognizing and rewarding small successes helps to create bigger successes. Celebrate and get creative in doing so. Include the individual leader accountabilities in your performance management program. Lead and manage the process of plan implementation.

Being a professional business leader should be hard, yet satisfying, work. Too often it is harder than it needs to be and much less satisfying. Both characteristics are enhanced when a committed team with a clear route to the future is working together to make it happen. Make it so.

Randy Boek, is the author of this month’s article on developing strategic plans for organizations.  If you need help or have questions about developing a strategic direction for your business, feel free to call on us or contact Randy directly.

Republication permission: Randy Boek, Professional Outsider/President, Route2Results. “Strategic Planning: There’s No Silver Bullet – Twelve Tips for Value and Results” (425) 359-8506.

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