The team grimaced at the thought of having to spend the next two days on the typical strategic planning ‘offsite’ approach. Even in the years where the market was relatively predictable, this planning approach hadn’t yielded many real results.
There were heaps of good ideas and plenty of big objectives chalked up, but they were soon forgotten when everyone got sucked back into their own daily vortex.
“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”
Henry David Thoreau
The last 18 months had thrown more than a few curve-balls, to say the least. Looking towards 2022 and beyond, there were still a fair few unknowns and likely twists and turns.
“Are we really going to just settle for the status quo strategic planning approach like we’ve done in the past?” uttered Sandra, a director across multiple parts of the organisation. If we all just pretend that this alone is going to be a helpful guide for the next 12 months and beyond, it could end up being a waste of time.
If we’re honest, we know that if we keep trying to forge ahead the way we’ve done things in the past, we’ll likely end up with a whole heap of internal ideas, opinions, objectives, and great intentions.
“A long list of things to do often mislabelled as strategies or objectives is not strategy”
Will conventional planning bring grass-roots value to our ongoing decision-making around where we spend our time and point our best people?
To me, the stark contrast is now clear
I used to think there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between strategic planning and strategy.
But now, the contrast is real and clear.
This has been a result of real-life lived experiences, making mistakes, gleaning insights, and seeing first-hand the impact of ‘real’ strategy that’s given me a new perspective.
“Look for the human problem behind the business problem”
I could personally, never go back to just the conventional strategic planning approach. It simply doesn’t have the impact on driving organisations forward with clear & integrated choices for differentiation and growth.
So, how’s strategy different to strategic planning?
Strategy in our world is very clearly a verb. Strategy is something that involves ‘doing’ or an ongoing ‘action’.
“Strategy isn’t analysis, strategy isn’t plans, strategy is what you do”
Strategic planning inherently ends up with just a plan. A plan is a ‘thing’. In many cases, it remains a static ‘thing’ that moves into the background soon after it’s completed.
Strategic plans are created at a point in time & are typically not terribly dynamic.
Whereas strategy needs to be something we do ongoing, as a consistent and deliberate practice.
Let’s not fall into this trap
If we don’t live & breathe strategy, this likely falls back into the traditional strategic planning category where we end up with just a plan.
“Planning is the act of laying out projects with timelines, deliverables, budgets, and responsibilities”
Don’t get me wrong, strategic planning can be useful as part of doing strategy.
But please, let’s stop trying to substitute real-world strategy with strategic planning!
How does strategy apply in the real world?
To have the greatest impact, strategy first starts by listening to the ‘people closest to the problem’ we’re trying to solve. Listening to direct perspectives and experiences of current and potential clients, partners and broader industry cohorts.
“Real insights come from seeing the world through someone else’s eyes”
That’s ‘doing’ strategy that will allow us to get the most real-world insights so we can have clarity to make choices that have the greatest direct impact on growth and the bottom line.
Strategy then begins to shape the ongoing decisions we need to make.
Strategic planning is of limited value without real strategy first.
Let’s not continue to confuse strategic planning with strategy!
If you’d like some practical guidance on how to start applying strategy in the real-world, check out our – Strategy Guide or Strategy Kickstarter!