I’ve been a part of so many strategic planning efforts that follow the same pattern that includes, but unfortunately is not limited to:

  • A multi-day offsite with the organization’s leaders that includes reviewing mounds of previously generated research and background data, e.g., SWOT analysis,
  • revisiting or creating vision, mission, values statements, and determining critical success factors, goals, etc.
  • generating a high level outline of a strategic plan,
  • assigning teams to lead the development of the strategic plan’s components,
  • a report out of the teams results to the rest of the leadership team (a step that is repeated several times that includes lots of wordsmithing), and
  • the development of a comprehensive plan that finally achieves consensus (“I can live with and support the plan”).

The plan is put into a three-ring binder, the team members celebrate the completion of the process, and the three-ring binder is distributed. If the senior leader is really engaged there are activities and visuals that reinforce the components of the strategic plan.

All of this effort is expended to ensure the organization achieves the vision and mission of the organization, which are deemed as so important that a “perfect” plan must be developed and implemented to bring them to pass.

But to use a colorful Mike Tyson quote to make the point “Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth”. That is, planning is always impacted by the realities of life.

Because a plan cannot possibly anticipate all contingencies, a perfect plan is, in effect, a myth. Thus, the value of a strategic plan is not how it is developed but how well it is implemented.

Says: Naveen Jain entrepreneur and the founder and former CEO of InfoSpace: “Success doesn't necessarily come from breakthrough innovation but from flawless execution. A great strategy alone won't win a game or a battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling.”

In other words, an imperfect plan that is well executed is better than a perfect plan that is poorly executed.

In my experience, executive is dependent on at least three keys: clarity of purpose, a relentless focus on purpose, and a strong (almost ruthless) alignment with purpose.

We discuss each of these in the posts to follow: