Avoid the Pitfalls of Strategic Planning

July 09, 2018

Strategic planning is more than refreshing the last plan with new initiatives. The plan will not be well executed if assumptions are not tested. A thorough plan is essential if organizations want to be successful. Without a strategic plan in place, organizations are poised to stumble, and they often do.

Organizations with a strategic plan tend to assume that their structure and content is correct. Management then treat strategic planning as a refresh of the previous version, and simply add more goals or projects. Strategic planning should not be recycled information unless the organization is in the second or third year of their plan — the time to monitor and enhance. If an organization is using a plan that is more than three years old, they may be losing the competitive edge.

To make the most of the planning process, organizations need to make sure they avoid the following common pitfalls:

  • Poor facilitation: Often the facilitator lacks experience and business education, which is a critical component in effective strategic planning. With an experienced and objective facilitator, clients can focus on what they know best: their experience with the organization and sector. When organizations fill the role of facilitator internally, the facilitator objectively manages the discussion, and the group has a harder time engaging in open dialogue on topics and offering different views to improve results. Clients that choose objective facilitators can participate and provide answers to questions to help further the organization's understanding of strategic priorities. This is also an opportunity to gain buy-in and invite staff and leaders into the conversation to achieve a common view on the future state of the organization.
  • Overemphasis on tools: Strategic planning can also go off course when there is an overemphasis on strategic planning tools, which results in clients overlooking useful debates. Many organizations think filling out a template alone will achieve the intended outcome, but that is not the case. Relying on a template can pigeonhole an organization, leading to a strategic plan that is too focused on an unnecessary need. Overreliance on templates and tools will not generate meaningful results.
  • Focusing on budget: While improved budgeting is a goal for many organizations, it is not the goal of strategic planning. It is important to start with the end state in mind. For example, if working with a charity that focuses on mental health, the organization needs to look at the client and the people they are helping. The strategic plan considers the end users of an organization's products and services and helps to ensure their environment is improved by the organization's offering. It is best to not focus specifically on the financials or try to reduce the budget as often times this will reduce the ability to effectively serve the target audience. By working backwards from a strong strategic plan, improved financials will follow.

Strategic planning benefits all organizations. Leaders and people across all levels of the organization will gain insight into their organization and its place in the larger sector or industry. They can then take concrete steps to implement the strategic plan and see the benefits in action.

How can BDO help?

BDO's results-focused strategic planning approach creates a set of deliberate outcomes and levels of performance measures that balance financial, strategic, client, stakeholder, and employee interests aligned to the organization's mission. We focus on identifying and validating the activities and outputs that directly align to desired outcomes, and then determine the data sources to measure success. BDO establishes the processes to achieve results through structured monitoring, measuring, assessing and reporting. This positions our clients to make decisions that will drive improvement and continually evaluate whether objectives are met.

We are committed to our client's success and work across sectors providing superior facilitation at a fair value. Clients identify cost as one of the biggest barriers to working with a consultant on their strategic plan. However, cost commitments vary based on the solution required and BDO will work within the specific context of each client to tailor a specific and cost-effective approach for the organization. Once an effective strategic plan is in place, the organization will benefit and have a strong vision moving forward.

Reach out to one of our consultants to get started on a strategic plan today.

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