Your Strategy and Face Plants
Strategic Plan face plants. They are everywhere. I’ve had my share.
You may be operating with one right now. You know, where you spend
time and resources to create a plan, but no one uses it to set priorities or
schedule work today. Strategic plans are meant to help people and
organizations… well work more strategically. Most plans in fact
fall well short of that, in fact they fall on their face… in the dirt. Keep
reading if you would like to avoid that outcome.
There’s one simple rule to keep you out of the dirt most of the time.
That simple rule is all about what’s number 1. In fact I think good
strategic plans follow a succession of #1’s. But here’s the thing about
number 1. Getting it confused with #2 or #3 messes everything up and
you’re back in the dirt.
Ok, so what’s number one… or the first number one?
For for-profit companies, it’s simply this:
Strategy has to define how you’re going to drive growth
(what you are going to emphasize, where are you betting your resources)…
within the market constraints and your value structure.
That’s it. If you start anywhere else, it’s a face plant. It’s bureaucratic,
it’s politics, in fact it can be a lot of things, but it isn’t the number one thing
a strategy should clarify. As a result, the strategic plan looses it’s core and
becomes a reporting function, not a guide for growth.
For non-profit companies, it’s simply this:
Strategy has to define how to fulfill your mission in a sustainable
That’s it. Pretty simple:
Number one inevitably defines how you best do what you do and
get money to keep doing it.
Now look at your strategic plan, and specifically the first goal or initiative.
Does it start with that focus, or does it start with a face plant, with a number
2 or 3, or who knows what, leading off your strategy?
I was working on large organization’s strategy last week and the first
initiative started with extending the use of service life of their physical
plant. Yikes, that’s it? That’s the number one, first target out of the box?
That’s what the business growth hinges on?
You get the point. Well here’s one additional point.
If you do a strategic plan face plant, it’s really hard to get people to pay
attention to it… except for generating reports right before the meeting.
Yes, you know, one more meeting, or one more agenda in the meeting
to review the results of the progress on the plan.
Why is that? We’re not used to orienting to strategy. But that’s another blog.
This is all backwards isn’t it? Strategy is meant to guide forward
movement, not be a report in a file on something that happened in the past.
There’s several other 1’s that if you link together, create an incredibly
powerful strategy (things like make it actionable, link it directly to
what’s on the schedule this week, this month, make it measurable).
Again, that’s another blog, but let me wrap up this blog with this thought.
If you make sure your strategy addresses #1 right from the start,
it’s a lot easier to simplify it (and expose the assumptions underneath
the plan). And the more simple and powerfully your strategy addresses
what’s number 1, the more likely your plan will shape behavior & priorities.
Remember that great quote on simplicity from Steve Jobs? It applies here.
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your
thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once
you get there, you can move mountains.”
Address what’s #1 right from the start with your strategic plan
and you’ll not only avoid a strategic plan face plant, you’ll go a long
way towards crafting a strategy that shapes behavior and priority setting.
And about #1, remember it’s all about how you link growth and fulfillment
of what the organization does with getting money. Don’t confuse #1 with
Link: Check out this strategy make-over service: