Working as an organization development consultant, I get asked to support companies in developing their strategic plan; this causes me to pause and wonder if can we plan for strategy?
- Planning is developing a series of steps or processes that can be seen and achieved based on our current understanding of the environment.
- Strategy is responding to internal and external needs, opportunities, threats, and unknown unknowns.
Mintzberg shares that any strategic planning process works to understand 3 areas:
- achieved results :: items we planned to achieve and achieved
- unachieved results :: items we planned to achieve and did not achieve
- emergent results :: items neither planned nor unplanned; they were discovered through progress
Currently, a solution that works for me is to explain the 3 areas above to clients and develop a process to keep strategy and response as an integral system of operations. Meaning every meeting, every month, every employee discussion, every client or customer or vendor meeting, and every time an employee sees, hears or discovers something that can benefit the company is discussed within the strategic plan framework. As new areas (that may alter or enhance) the plan are discovered, these areas are discussed and explored through a filter of:
- Are we attracting trust to our organization?
- What are the boundaries of our organization?
- How will this discovery increase what’s working well?
- How will this discovery decrease what’s not working well?
- On a scale of 0 – 10 (with 10 being full resource allocation), how much are we willing to put towards a safe-to-fail experiment to see what impact this discovery will have?
- How can we gather more information while moving on this discovery?
- When will we know that this is no longer worth pursuing?
There isn’t a yes or no response to the filter questions. The responses are based on your organization’s discretion and capacity.
Ignoring strategy for planning is a choice, just as much as changing your plan as new strategies become apparent. One choice will change how the work gets done, and the other will keep it the same.