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Strategic plan; Thought, Actions or Write-up

July 16, 2010

This week I read a blog from Fred Nichols, discussing whether most of the
value is in a strategic plan, or in the process of creating one.  It got me
thinking about how to define what really is a strategic plan, hence this
blog and a question (well actually several) to you:

If the strategic plan is essentiallythe plan to get ahead at the business
level, is it something that’s written or stored in a software program?

Or since most people in an organization don’t know or can’t remember
the strategic plan, is it really how and what we think, our
assumptions about what it takes to get ahead?

Or since we all don’t act consistent with how we think, or what we read,
is the strategic plan really defined by how we act, what we spend
time on, what we prioritize or repeat?

If you redefine the strategic plan as simply the plan that defines how to
get ahead, it really makes you realize for most people it isn’t what’s written.
What if ultimately the strategic plan is always something internal that
drives the choices we make.  Now that internal plan may be based upon
a written plan or thought process somewhere, but that internal plan
could also be quite detached from any formal process.

While you’re thinking about that, let me also suggest that maybe,
for most of us, the internal plan is based primarily on one core
assumption that fits with our personality more than anything else.

I have a unique way of combining Myers-Briggs scores that seems
to match up well against brain research, and if I were to put it in
a matrix, the personality types and their one core strategic
emphasis would look like this:

Strategic Grid

Back to the strategic plan question.  Is it external, internal, or a connection
between the two?   I’m thinking the strategic plan is primarily internal,
and you have to work pretty hard to connect the two.  It takes some
work to connect an external plan to people’s internal assumptions. 

To Fred’s discussion of the whether the process or the value is the
value add, I’m thinking neither if the plan people are working from
is primarily internal and not impacted by whatever formal plan got
developed or the process to develop it. 

What if the process for developing strategic plans emphasized
connecting people’s inner world of assumptions and preferences,
with the external business question and reality of “how to get ahead.”?

Bottom Line:

I think most of us work off of an internal strategic plan, not an external
one.  Secondly our internal plan is shaped more by our personal
preferences than business needs or process.  Third, if you look at
personality profiles, you realize the standard approach to strategic
planning is structured for only one personality type,the Analytic
Thinker/Builder.  Looks like we need to redesign current approaches
to strategic planning to incorporate the styles of everyone
in the organization, not just a minority… especially if you want to
create an external plan that will impact everyone.

Is Strategic Planning an Oxymoron?

5 Comments. Leave new

Christian von Reventlow
July 23, 2010 8:06 pm

Strategic plans in most corporations are build with the assumption, that the future is a linear extension of the past. They often happen has an afterthought, summarizing and abstracting all the detailed individual product decisions already been made. Expectation of large corporates is then to execute exactly as predicted. Personalities as the analytical thinker you describe are very comfortable in this environment.
In a turbulent non linear environment this method does not work. You typically don’t have the knowledge to predict the future. You need to learn and evolve while you go. If you look in the history of all highly succesful organization you will find a period when they behaved as such. That made them find the gold which made them great.
Different personality types need to be at the helm in such a phase. The analytical thinker will feel very uncomfortable in such an environment.
A large organization being stagnant needs to transition from analytical thinkers to creative leaders. Very difficult to do and frightening for the old leaders. Thats the main reason why many formerly highly succesful organization die. And why they actually need to die as they have lost the ability to renew themselves. Thus loose relevance over time.
What are your thoughts.


Great comment. Interesting thought about needing a shift in leadership personality profile to get the shift you need in an organization. Adizes’ work on Corporte Life Cycles would suggest that leadership profiles typically move from creative to analytic, and not back to creative, but on to maintainer and ultimately supportive to wrap up the lifecycle.



“Strategic Planning” should be scrapped due to the inherent oxymoron. Strategy is fluid, ever-changing due to changing circumstances. We need to replace “strategic planning” with “creative and critical thinking”. Leadership should be tasked with determining “how do we distinguish ourselves from the competition and what is the best course for our company?”

Strategy development often takes own a life of its’ own. Many organizations waste valuable resources by attempting to drive strategy down to the lowest levels of the organization through development of measurable objectives utilized for individual performance review. The result is often unrealistic, poorly written goals that only serve to confuse and demoralize the work force.

Performance is critical, but it belongs in the “written” business plan with assigned, measurable tasks to improve the key processes within the organization. The future of the company rests in the hands of the leadership and its’ ability to think creatively and critically. I suggest the “value” is derived from the “thinking process”.


Enjoyed your comments. Yes I’ve witnessed a number of failed attempts to “drive strategy down the organization.” Which usually meant placards of the strategic plan on desktops, metrics on projects that were in support of different strategic measures, etc.
As you well said, I don’t know if any of that actually improved creative or critical thinking, or really helped connect with what people felt they needed to do to move the business forward… which ultimately is the core of strategic thinking.



At a glance it almost looked like a SWOT Analysis, after reading only I realized its personality types and their core strategic
emphasis. Its a very clever way to analyze strategic planning.


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