When Does Your Company Need a Strategic Plan?

Strategic planning, as a structured and systematic process, is successful when it is leader-led and overcomes the five reasons 70% of all strategies fail.  Learn how to see your plan through to success.  The strategic planning process is where leaders of an organization establish the vision of the organization’s future and then develop and implement the actions necessary to achieve that future.  This article expands on the strategic planning concepts addressed in Think Big, Take Small Steps and is designed to help you achieve success in your strategic planning process.

LifebuoyRealizing When You Need a Ship and When You Need a Life Raft

You know you have a problem in your company.  You see your profits dropping, your customers are leaving you, your market share is eroding, employee turnover is at an all-time high.  All signs point to a company on the rocks–and I mean “on the rocks!”

Shaking your head as you read over your latest figures, you wonder what’s going wrong?  In that business class you took a few years back–the one that you thought would help you run things better–they talked about the need for a strategic plan.  “Every organization should start with a plan–a business or strategic plan,” you remember the professor saying.

Looking back at your numbers, you realize that’s something you really never got around to.  When you came back from the class, you remember drafting up some words that describe what you do and calling it your mission statement.  You even created a lofty vision statement just like the man said to do.  You had them posted in a frame in the front office for all your customers to see.

That seemed like the thing to do.  You really weren’t sure, because you didn’t put much stock into planning at the time.  Maybe you were wrong?  Maybe you should have paid more attention during that lecture?  Perhaps it’s time to create a strategic plan after all?


The first rule of strategic planning is that it’s never a quick fix for your company.  Planning–good planning–takes time.  The result is a plan, not action.  In reality, it can take one or two years for an organization to actually mature their strategic plan into something that actually makes a difference.  And that’s if you get the plan right in the first place.  An implemented strategic plan doesn’t actually fix your organization, what it does is position you strategically to take advantages of opportunities in business and provides capability to improve operations.

Thinking that a strategic plan will solve your problems when you are “on the rocks,” is like throwing a lifebuoy to someone who fell overboard in a hurricane.  There isn’t much chance of survival.

If your organization is bleeding that much, you need immediate professional assistance–you need a tourniquet, not a band-aid.  Call in the professionals and have them conduct a throughout assessment of your operation.  Chances are you might even be part of the problem–learn to accept that and move on.  Most likely, not only do you have back office business problems like a lack of communication, lack of training programs, lack of performance and process management, and a lack of strategy, but you probably have significant operational issues too.  What you are delivering to your customers lacks quality, doesn’t meet their needs, or is constantly being delivered late.

For organizations that have a pretty solid operation–they’re delivering good work, but seeing stresses on their organization and operation, generally there are business constraints that are holding them back from delivering better service.  Ignored for too long, these stresses turn into stress fractures and everything starts to fall apart.  When the operation is solid, but there is room for improvement, then strategic planning is the first step.  It should have been the first step anyway, but if you have issues in your organization, I’m going to guess that what plan you currently have (if you have one at all) is pretty weak.

When the operation–the core thing you do–is failing, then immediate triage is required.  Fix the operational issues first and then look to the strategic plan.  I’m not telling you that you don’t, or won’t need a solid effective strategic plan that overcomes the five reasons that strategic plans fail, but it’s not going to save you.  Right now you need CPR!

So, 70% of all plans fail to some level; however, by following these guidelines you can help ensure your strategic plan will be one of the 30% successes that everyone reads about.

Related Links:

1.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/betsie-gambel/to-plan-or-not-to-plan_b_4309631.html

2.  http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/happiness-know-when-to-plan-and-when-not-to.html

About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

3 Responses to When Does Your Company Need a Strategic Plan?

  1. Pingback: Think Big, Take Small Steps | John R. Knotts

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  3. Edval Tavares says:

    I agree with your comments about Strategic Planning. Very good. Edval Tavares

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