Do you need an outside consultant to do strategic planning? No, but it helps.
Some believe all planning should be conducted start to finish as an inside job using only current employees in order to build understanding and commitment to the resulting plan. Real employee involvement is critical to execution to be sure, but why narrow input at the critical beginning of the planning exercise?
People embedded in an organization often become blind to the nuances of the situation. Situational features are no longer actively perceived. Elements, processes, motivations are presumed and assumed to continue unchanged. Nuances are missed; signals of change are ignored. Soon the little modifications accumulate and the organization finds itself surprised by important alterations in their environment, competitors and even clients.
Reacting to surprises is dangerous for both organizations and individuals. Rather than stepping back and rethinking how they do planning, they usually scramble to recover lost relevancy and viability. The panic caused by the specter of imminent significant losses leads them to double down on what they are used to, whatever they did before. They use old responses to new problems perceived through out of date analytic lenses. Look at what Uber is doing to the taxi industry all over the world, and how poorly most of that industry is responding.
This negative spiral can be avoided by working with a good consultant, preferably during routine planning cycles, to avoid being surprised. A trained outsider will give you fresh eyes and ears about the nuances submerged into assumption within the organization and the environment. They can ask the naive questions about how some process came into being and why current organizational structures exist. They can be tasked to match effort and effect within the organization in ways that cross presumed organizational boundaries. And they can note what is not being done while everyone is busy doing what they understand to be their jobs.
An experienced consultant can also elevate a routine planning cycle by introducing new skills and relevant information such as environmental scanning and foresight work. These elements need to become part of all organizational strategic planning if organizations expect to stay ahead of the accelerating change curve. If you are already in panic mode (hello, television executives), you need skilled consultants to help you develop some positive options other than holding your breath or a bruising price-reduction spiral.
Partner with a capable consultant. It is worth it for you, for your organization and your future. There are a whole range of new requirements in competent organizational planning. They can be understood though, through tough thorough thought. That's nuance, and as you can see, it matters.