I know a CEO who gave strategic planning a try – once. He brought his senior team together and tasked them to develop a company strategic plan. They went away and performed market research, defined big goals, engaged the right people, assessed resource requirements, and pulled together an integrated strategic plan, complete with milestones and metrics.
When the senior team presented their plan to the CEO, he asked several thought-provoking questions about goals, market opportunity, competition, and the investment required. He made sure he understood the plan’s details, declared he liked the plan, and then charged his team to begin implementation. He spent no more time thinking about the plan, since his team was “on it.”
A year passed and the CEO called the senior team back into his office to review progress. While the company had grown and was still profitable, strategy implementation was poor, resource allocation was incomplete, milestones had not been met, and the company was no closer to achieving its strategic goals than it was 12 months ago. The CEO declared strategic planning to be unproductive and said he would not put any more of his time into it.
Why did this happen? Was it a flaw in the plan – or a flaw in the implementation? It may have been both of those, but more likely it was the CEO’s lack of engagement in the strategy planning and implementation process. The leader must be involved from the beginning in conceiving the company’s strategic vision, goals, and milestones, and then must be the strategy’s main driver throughout its life. He/she needs to ask questions that reflect consistent interest in moving toward the next milestone and ultimate objectives, helping to set expectations, measure progress, and check in regularly – to do more than just delegate. The leader’s full engagement in strategic planning and implementation is critical to its ultimate success.