3 Confessions about Strategic Planning
The past couple of weeks I’ve worked with 4 different organizations on
strategic planning. They represented the gamut from for-profit, to charities
to government. Each represented a confession of sorts. The type you
might make if questioned about your own strategic planning process.
I thought you might be interested in listening in on 3 of the confessions.
1. Everyone is light on research and quick to substitute discussion for
knowing the facts.
Here’s some of the questions that I need data on when working on a
strategic plan. Not only does it make the strategic plan a much better
predictor of the outcomes you are shooting for, it makes the strategic
planning process go much quicker.
Okay, here’s some of the questions I use:
1) What kind of market are you in? What’s it emphasizing? (innovation,
2) What’s driving the sales/money funnel and the associated value proposition?
3) Where do customers come from and why?
4) What’s the best practice for delivery of the product/service?
5) What’s the best practice for retaining customers?
6) What does an analysis of your top 3-6 competitors reveal about your
market analysis and understanding of the competition
2. Everyone needs to focus on the money funnel and the
relationships and criteria that drive the funnel.
What emerges here at every stop, is that your strategic plan is incomplete,
one could even say missing the point, if it doesn’t address how you are going
to get (more) funds in. Where’s the money coming from and where is more
of it going to come from, whether through sales, funding, donations, or legislation.
The strategy needs to have a very clear plan for how you’re going to
maintain and grow your money funnel. You may be thinking this is
only for profit oriented businesses, but it’s not. Charities and government
agencies have just as many concerns about “where’s the money.”
By the way, the money funnel is an important area in which to get the facts
straight. Without facts, the planning tends to drift in favor of who
carries the most weight at the discussion table, the relative comfort
with discussing money, assumptions, favorite jokes, you name it. Or
the focus takes a sudden veer towards the latest “shiny factor”.
Stay with the facts on this one. Do the research to get the data before
starting the discussion.
3. If you’re using a Balanced Scorecard approach, you need to
translate it, otherwise its about as exciting, read ability to sustain interest,
as dry crackers.
Whether you use the Balanced Scorecard or not, its easy for strategic
plans to start looking stiff, formal, bureaucratic, policy-based. They also
get into this format of a list, which conveys that they all are important.
And everyone knows they all aren’t equally important. You get
the idea. Your strategic plan may look the same. It sucks the life out
of the plan… well at least the interest in paying attention to it.
One of the important steps I find to help in this process, is to break
the business down into meaningful chunks that represent business
or organizational realities if you were to walk the floor, and then
address each chunk in your strategy with priority. Let me give you
The standard Balanced Scorecard perspectives are:
Finance – the strategy for growth
Customer – the strategy for creating value for the customer
Internal – strategies addressing internal business processes
Learning & Growth – strategies that support change, innovation & growth
Here’s an example of how I might reframe that if I were at your business:
1. The money funnel: How are you going to get money/funds (restate
that, more money and funds) into the organization? How are you
going to address directly what drives that funnel?
1. Differentiation for Customers: What differentiation are
customer’s requesting (service, quality, price, status…) and
how are you going to give it to them?
2. Efficiency: How are you going to improve your processes such that
you meet your mission and objectives with less time spent on low value
time consuming actions?
3. Growth Acquisition: What technology, expertise, change in staff,
knowledge and resources are you going to acquire to help you grow?
If confession is good for the soul, it’s also good for your strategic plan,
if you listen closely. A couple of confessions revealed that you can
profit from include: a) the need for good data before you start planning,
b) the need to take care of your money funnel, and c) the need to break
your plan down into chunks that reflect your primary business realities,
including the priority of the money funnel and growing the business.