Strategic Plan

Have we clearly identified our organization’s competitive advantage? Are we creating a blue ocean as the strategic market space for our company? How does this relate to our human capital? How helpful is a balanced scorecard? Some colleagues may ask these types of questions as you do strategic planning at your organization (especially if these colleagues are fans of the work of Michael Porter, Kim and Mauborgne along with Kaplan and Norton). This is often a positive sign that they are truly engaged which can help make your strategic planning a more productive process.

On the other hand, you may also encounter colleagues who mistakenly perceive strategic planning as pie-in-the-sky idea work combined with a lot of buzzwords. In this case, it is worth clarifying that strategic planning is more than simply envisioning a desired future, and sound strategic planning benefits more people than just the one sitting in the CEO’s chair. When it is done well, strategic planning is a process used to focus an organization’s direction relative to its business environment through setting priorities, allocating resources and aligning stakeholders to accomplish agreed-upon objectives. Sharing the following statistics may also help skeptics to take strategic planning and the subsequent talent management implications a little more seriously:

  • 60-80% of companies fail to hit the targets laid out in their strategic plans (Kaplan and Norton)
  • Only 41% of companies believe their human capital strategy links to their corporate strategy (Economist Intelligence Unit)

As you work with supporters and skeptics of strategic planning, help them keep in mind what increases the likelihood of success of any task, initiative or process. Specifically, success is more likely if you take steps to think, plan, execute and then refine. Sound strategic planning work is essentially built on this same framework. As you begin strategic planning with your stakeholders, consider emphasizing these points.

1) Your corporate strategy is the basis from which other organizational strategies, structures and processes are built including:

  • Human capital strategy
  • Organization design
  • IT strategy
  • Talent management system
  • Business unit strategy
  • Information security strategy

2) Strategic planning brings your corporate strategy to life.

3) A strategic plan may look good from a conceptual standpoint, but it does not provide value unless it can be successfully implemented over time.

4) If the strategic plan is difficult for people to understand, don’t be surprised if they struggle to execute it.

5) Monitoring the effectiveness of execution should be a regular part of the strategic planning process so needed adjustments can be made.

  • A dashboard or balanced scorecard can help


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, LLC. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM-based organization tweets here: @ryanlahti

(Photo: The Posters Are Back!, Flickr)