The 5 Keys to Winning Strategic Plans

A winning strategy is a powerful asset that is often underutilized. While most organizations have a business plan, projecting the year ahead, few leaders and organizations truly think and act strategically. Even those organizations that invest heavily in a strategic planning process, initiated by a memorable retreat, and followed by extensive planning and documentation, often fail to deliver a clever and clear strategy. Why is so, we may ask ourselves?

The five most common reasons why so many companies fail to think, and act strategically can be explained in familiar terms. Most strategic planning is simply financial forecasting, or a list of key initiatives that have been on the table for some time. The missing ingredient is often the discipline to take a hard look at market trends and industry dynamics to position the organization for growth.

There is also the common pitfall of group think by senior leaders, that quickly coalesce around a set of goals and action plans even if they are not fully committed to the plan. Supporting the senior leader becomes more valued than open up a healthy strategic conversation. Most leaders, when asked in private would express concerns that were never aired in public.

When it comes to rolling out a strategic plan, there is a noticeable execution gap. Even after a strategic plan has been presented at management meetings and success measures put in place. Most employees, including those who are critical to the plan’s success, lack a good understanding of the plan and their role in making it happen. It is little surprise that it did not get implemented.

The most common pitfall is the low accountability for execution of the strategic plan. Companies large and small, after they completed the planning cycle and rolled out the communications, get back to work as if the strategic plan is a separate project to be revisited time and again. In fact, most CEOs confess to inconsistent follow through on strategy execution through the year.

In summary, the five reasons why most companies fail to develop and execute their strategic plans can be summarised as:

  1. A Financial Goal Is NOT a Strategy
    Strategy is a financial projection lacking a compelling vision or market analysis
  2. A List of Projects Is NOT a Strategy
    Strategy is a list of high-priority projects lacking a core concept for a winning game plan
  3. Leaders are NOT aligned to the Strategy
    Leaders participate in strategic planning, but don’t necessarily commit to the goals
  4. Employees do NOT know the Strategy
    Employees lack understanding of the plan and their role in making it happen
  5. There is LOW accountability for Execution
    There is low accountability or inconsistent follow through on the execution

Enough about the problem! Let’s get to the solution. Fortunately, these common pitfalls are easily avoidable. Over the last ten years, we have worked with strategic leaders at some of the most successful organizations to apply a set of practices that delivers measurable gains on a quarterly basis. We refer to this approach as the Ascent Process, a framework for strategy acceleration.

Strategy acceleration is based on a proven process for engaging high-potential employees in achieving critical results. The keys to developing and implementing a winning strategic plan rely on agile sprints of strategic planning and execution. This approach engages key players across the organization in implementing results-oriented wins that can be leveraged into larger gains. We have identified a set of practices that, when done correctly, generates a strong sense of purpose coupled with a clear focus on achievable goals that deliver consistent results.

For additional information on how to accelerate strategic results, we offer strategic leadership training, strategic planning workshops and strategy sprints so you can achieve your most critical goals.

By Juan Riboldi
Ascent Advisor, President and Principal

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