Good Companies are Brought Down by “Strategic Plans”

A CEO I’m acquainted with wrote on March 31 that she was reviewing her company’s strategic plan and saw that they were behind.

I instantly had two strong objections.

  1. The concept of a “strategic plan” makes no sense at all. There is strategy formulation and there is implementation.

Strategy is the guiding or driving force of your company. It is what you are in business to accomplish. Classic strategy formulation theory posits 9 potential driving forces. Most closely held companies appropriately have one of five driving forces: products and services; market needs; technology; method of sale; method of distribution. Your company can only have one driving force.

  1. Waiting until the end of a quarter to review your work for the prior three months means you have wasted 90 days during which you could have made course corrections in your execution. Any plan worth following requires that you look at it daily or weekly at the longest. If the plan accurately reflects how the company will achieve its goals, each time you review, you make adjustments to keep on track, to recalculate or to speed up.

Implementation of strategy is the hardest work a company has to do. Doing a daily review makes this easier. Doing it only at the end of the quarter makes implementation much, much harder.

When you’re thinking about strategy and execution, remember this:

Strategy serves to direct your implementation; to make decisions; to choose one way over another.  To be the filter through which you view all operating and execution questions. Unless you have a clearly formulated strategy, you can’t make decisions that will contribute  to meaningful growth.

The execution plan has goals and timelines that you need to check and live by daily. Otherwise, how can you achieve outcomes? You have to look at the plan every day, break it into doable chunks and focus on outcomes so you don’t fall behind.

And when you see you’re falling behind, you take steps to catch up immediately.

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