Thursday, April 3, 2008

Strategic Planning - the Cleansing Power of Facts

"There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other." -Douglas Everett

Strategic Planning, if done honestly, objectively and with no predispositions to the outcome, can be an enlightening process. Enlightening because of what it reveals about an organization and its Raison d'ĂȘtre. Revelations may include:
  • the organizations perceived message versus what the customers hear
  • the organizations real position in the market as opposed to the proclaimed position
  • the organizations real image in the market as opposed to the image posited by marketing
  • the delta between the internal measure of the quality of its products and services and the real satisfaction levels of its customers
  • the hard facts about what the competition is doing as opposed to the anecdotal information gleaned from sales competition and technical support feedback

Strategic Planning can also be a liberating process, enabling organizations to free themselves from the internal urban myths that can become debilitating by their self enforcing nature. Urban myths like "our Product X is the number one product in the industry", based on a reviewer making the statement in a magazine in which the company spends significant ad revenue. Over time internal urban myths may rise to the level of a physical law of nature if repeated enough times and make their way into the on-boarding scripts for new employees.

The strategic planning process should uncover facts, facts reflecting an honest evaluation of an organization. Some facts may not be pretty. Finding these flaws may create instability within an organization because these are flaws that need to be fixed, which in turn may require change. Change is not something most people are comfortable with so successful Strategic Planning also requires leadership, encouragements and team building as the facts are uncovered.

“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.”
- John Kotter

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