Common Challenges and Recommendations for Strategic Planning

Challenges and Recommendations for Strategic Planning

Many organizations that try to implement Strategic Planning get stuck in the process. We would like to share some of the challenges we have found and how to work your way around them.

 

Process owner

Management wants to implement a formal strategic plan but the challenge is to know who should lead this activity.

  • For a formal strategic plan process, some people advice that you need to have a formal strategy office with a Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) leading the way. In many cases this team can be part of or work directly with the finance department. This article from Harvard Business Review talks about the importance of this role.
  • If it’s not possible to create the department, then a virtual team is another option with key players from multiple areas. Sometimes virtual teams are not easy to manage. Here you have information on how to deal with virtual teams from the Project Management Institute.

Most probably the process owner will need to hold the hands of each department to get up and running with their strategy.

 

Change Management

This is a challenge not only for Strategic Planning but for most enterprise processes. For many business areas within an organization, this might look like more work on their already-busy agenda.

  1. The team (formal or virtual) designated to lead the process should work with all the departments and help them on their first iteration. Probably at the beginning the team will do most of the work while the departments provide feedback.
  2. Make it their baby too. One thing is to help and provide assistance writing things down, the other one is to push this down their throats. Ask input and keep them in the loop along the way.
  3. Explain this is not only to hold them accountable, it’s also a way for them to explain why they need that additional headcount they have been requesting for a while now.
  4. Start small, thinking big: keep it as simple as possible at the beginning and work incrementally. You can start with a limited number of departments, limited number of KPIs and/or limited reports. Work on a Pilot, take lessons learned and repeat.

 

High level support

This challenge, especially when mixed with others, can be a real show stopper for Strategic Planning.

  1. Time to make a good case: Strategic Planning has to play an important piece for every organization. If you want to make a lot of emphasis in this, there are many case studies that show how struggling organizations have been able to rise up through the use of good Strategic Planning, here is a link to Moen’s case study. Why wait for that situation and not use it to increase revenue now?
  2. Report is served: sometimes is just takes a couple of internal samples to make it happen. Put a summary of the performance in front of them and just ask it they would like to get it on a monthly or quarterly bases. Sometimes having this on mobile device would fit better their tight agendas.

 

Starting point

So we have the Support we need internally, next challenge is how to get started with our plan.

    1. Bottom-up: If you have some performance measures already defined, some people recommend just getting a popular methodology like Balanced Scorecard and start aligning those to some of the classic Perspectives.
    2. Top-Down: Mission and Vision are a given for every organization, so you can start from there and start defining your priorities base on those. Then ask yourself what you would like to achieve within each priorities and how you would know if you got there.

Choosing a methodology can also help in this case, as well as looking for some popular KPIs within your industry. Some portals offer that information for free. You can try a website like KPI Library to get some ideas.

 

Technology

I always tell our customer technology shouldn’t represent a challenge for Strategic Planning, you already went through the tough part on previous sections, but as you start demanding more from all the business areas, you also have to facilitate the way they get that work done. There are many basic features the software should have, I will focus on a couple I think are worth reviewing.

  1. Business Driven: Especially at the beginning there are going to be a considerable amount of changes, and creating a ticket and waiting for it to get process is a wasting of time for both business and IT.
  2. Manual Data: yes, we are going to talk about this before talking about automation. Remember we are talking about Strategic information, starting with targets, usually there are a considerable amount of indicators that don’t exist in a system yet. Having the process in place to load and validate or approve those values is valuable. This is also a good way to start the project, following the “start small” topic from above, you might want to try a couple of iterations with manual data and show the value to the business before you start dealing with IT, permissions, ETL processes, etc.
  3. Automation: of course is important, if you can facilitate your user’s life, why wouldn’t you? Don’t answer that.
  4. Initiatives: showing results is not everything, in fact that can be done with many tools, you should show what you are doing to get where you want to go as a business.

You can check some of these functionalities and more information on our Organizational Strategy and Performance page and also check some of our partners' solutions like SAP Strategy Management and Corporater

 

These are some of the most popular challenges we have found out there and I hope you find these recommendations helpful to keep moving forward.

 

additional resources

Strategic Plan Template

Template to define your own plan

From Metrics To PM

Moving from a Metrics-Based System to Actionable Performance Management

How to Start Your Performance Management Project

A four-step approach to get started with Performance Management

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