A Time of Major Changes
Virtually all communities and businesses in America today are experiencing rapid major changes. These changes are mostly market-driven – caused by global competition, advances in technology, economic linkages and other forces beyond local control. Some changes are positive, but some are negative. To be sure your future is positive, you need a strong action program that helps your community or business resist the negatives, and work together to achieve what your people want.
A Realistic System for Planning for the Future
We developed Dynamic Strategic Planning to help communities and businesses manage change and realistically plan for the future without the many shortcomings of strategic planning. Most strategic plans fail because they create documents that provide the illusion of control – “You write it down, it will happen” – that’s the promise, anyway. But much of what happens is beyond our control – rapid change quickly makes any document obsolete – so adaptation is essential
“Traditional strategic planning” is a term for various forms of strategic planning from the second half of the 20th Century. However, even before then and certainly afterwards, we might say that there has been “common-sense strategic planning.” The steps in the common-sense strategic planning process were simply:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to go?
- How do we get there?
Although this 3-step approach seems perfectly logical, easy to understand and remember, it can be misleading. And that is because many strategic planners decided that, before any planning is done, we should gather lots of facts on where we are now. In a large-scale strategic planning effort, this can leads to tens of thousands of dollars being spent on gathering data – demographics, economic trends, industry trends, sales and profits, etc. etc. – often by outside experts who were only too glad to get paid big bucks to do this. The typical result when all this is presented to the lay people (non-professional planners) in the planning process is EGO (eyes glaze over). Behind the glazed eyes are often confused minds that begin to wonder what’s for dinner or when the next break is.
In more recent years, a number of more creative strategic planning experts, including lifestyle gurus like “7 Habits” author Stephen Covey, have advocated that we “begin with the end in mind,” or start with the purposes we are trying to achieve. This gets people excited and involved far more effectively, and avoids wasting thousands of dollars on data-gathering that no one is going to read anyway. But before we discuss the new Dynamic Strategic Planning further, let’s take a closer look at:
Steps in the Traditional Strategic Planning Process
- Get ready – strategic planning takes a lot of time and energy, any way you cut it. The top 2 or more executives must be actively involved, and there are always many demands on their time. Inevitably some costs will be involved – they need to be assessed up front. Decide who needs to be involved and how.
- Develop a vision and mission – Vision and mission often get switched around, but we believe the best approach is to consider the vision as “what we want to be like in the future” and the mission as “what we must do to accomplish the vision.”
- Environmental scan – Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the internal organization environment, and the opportunities and threats of the external marketplace environment. Gather relevant economic, demographic, political, technological, geographic, legal and trend data. Analyze the data and present it to the group.
- Gap analysis – Identify the gaps between the vision-mission statements (what we hope to achieve) and the environmental scan (current realities).
- Strategic planning – Develop strategies to close the gaps. This includes specific goals with measurement, timing, and budget; strategies to reach each goal; and who’s going to be responsible for each goal and strategy. Sometimes strategies and goals are further subdivided into objectives (specific accomplishments planned for the next 12 months) and tactics (specific plans to accomplish the objectives).
- Implementation – The strategic plan is implemented as planned, as closely as possible. Objective forms of measurement track progress and help people stay on course. Progress is periodically reviewed.
- Updating – Typically strategic plans are created through a major effort every five years, and updated with a review process every 12 months or so.
Steps in the Dynamic Strategic Planning Process
Dynamic Strategic Planning (DSP) differs from traditional strategic planning (TSP) in several important ways. We don’t want to give away all the details of our book, which we encourage you to purchase as an ebook, paperback, or Kindle book. But here are the main steps in DSP:
- Involve people in such a way that their natural concerns and energies are tapped.
- Identify the purposes, what you are trying to accomplish, then develop visions in rough draft form.
- Determine the critical issues which must be managed effectively to achieve the vision.
- Involve as many people as possible in reviewing these early planning statements or drafts.
- Form teams of people to manage the critical issues.
- Coordinate the teams with a variety of methods (see the e-book for details).
- Celebrate accomplishments and reward achievements.
Actually Dynamic Strategic Planning involves 12 key steps, as the book explains. Each one of them is vital to ensure the maximum gain and success of the planning-implementation process. As you can see, Dynamic Strategic Planning places more emphasis on the people dimension of planning, because their commitment is key to successful implementation, whereas traditional strategic planning places more emphasis on the mechanics of the process. To learn more about the book and how you can obtain a copy quickly, click here.