The #1 Mistake Every Company Makes When Strategic Planning

Everyone does it.
Every company I have ever consulted with – high-tech, low-tech, service, manufacturing, blue-collar, white-collar, whatever – takes on too much. Too many strategies, too many objectives, too many initiatives, too many projects, too much.
And the consequence? Many of those things fail. Do this repeatedly and you create a track record of failure. An expectation of failure. An acceptance of failure. A culture of failure.
Why do we let this happen? For one, ambition. The reason you and people like you are in leadership roles is because you’ve achieved. You’ve seen the opportunities, pursued them and gotten results. And you’ve seen the challenges, taken action and overcome them. Yet opportunities and challenges are everywhere. Over time you fall into the seductive trap of trying to do it all. Yes, of course it’s all important. But is it all necessary now?
Fortunately, there is a solution.
Focus on the few. The most critical opportunities. The most critical challenges. Don’t get sidetracked by the could-dos or should-dos. Remember that success with strategy is largely determined by what you choose not to focus on. Or, as the great jazz musician Miles Davis once said, “It’s the notes you don’t play that count.”
Here’s the bonus. When you focus on the few you need fewer total resources because you’re not expending them on things you shouldn’t be. Concentrate your resources on what matters most … and then accept no excuses.
I’ve seen it play out many, many times. When you focus on the few, those few things are very likely to get done. That in turn creates a more confident and positive culture. “When we say we’re going to get things done around here, we get them done!”
And what about those things that didn’t make the cut to be one of the few? What happens with them? The reality is that some work will get done with them. But that work can’t be an excuse for not getting the critical few things done.
If you’re like many companies, you’re now into “strategy season” – assessing the strategic landscape and determining your priorities for 2019. The good news is that your competitors are almost certain to take on too much. The question is: will you have the discipline to focus on the few?
Make it happen.
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