One of the most common questions I am asked is, “Why does strategic planning so often fail?”.

In fact, 70 – 90% of strategic plans fail, as measured by The Balance Scorecard creators and authors Robert Kaplan and David Norton, and published in their book, The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment.

So why do strategic plans so often fail? We could easily discuss over 50 reasons but I would like to share the top three reasons for strategic planning failures.

#1) It’s in the name, Strategic Planning

When you think of strategic planning, what does it cause you to focus on?

The plan. The event of planning.

But strategic planning has nothing to do with the plan. Sure, planning is part of the process, but it isn’t the purpose.

Instead, strategic planning is a managed process about results and outcomes. The goal of strategic planning is to win, not to plan. Winning requires strategy plus execution and a four-stage process: Assess, Position, Plan, and Implement.

I recommend eliminating the term strategic planning from your vocabulary altogether. Instead, think of it as strategic management. After all, strategic planning is an ongoing process that you do have to manage.

#2) You Are Taking on Too Much

I have worked with numerous organizations, and it doesn’t matter what company, what industry, what location or any other factor, EVERYONE Takes on too much.

Too many strategies

Too many initiatives

Too much, too much, too much.

I once worked with a mid-sized company on their annual strategic plan, which had 37 strategies, projects, and initiatives – yes, 37! How could you possibly execute on that? You can’t.

We take on far too much.

Do less. Focus on the few. Concentrate your attention and resources on the critical few things that you can accomplish for your organization to win.

#3) You Are Sending Mixed Messages

As a leader, you are sending mixed messages.

When you ask for a strategy to be created but don’t provide enough resources for your team to execute it, you send mixed messages. You do the same when you don’t align your resources and incentives.

The same applies to not holding your team accountable.

When you don’t hold people accountable for what they need to do to support the strategy, you’re sending the message that the work is optional. This not only leads to decreased employee motivation, but it can also kill your credibility and undermines performance. You become the leader who trumpets excellence yet tolerates mediocrity.

Instead, be the leader who leads by example and clearly communicates! Be ruthlessly consistent – make sure everything you have said and done aligns with success. Create an environment in which everything your team experiences continually and consistently points them in the right direction. Set goals and provide the needed resources to support them.

So, what does this mean for your business? That’s up to you. I encourage you to take 90 seconds to reflect what I’ve just shared, select the one you will Make Happen, and record it!

Make it happen.


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