Why is Strategy so Rare?

Operating without an effective strategy is dangerous for organizations. Allowing the organization to function without an active strategy indicates negligence on the part of the board and senior management. Without a really good strategic plan you place your organization at risk of irrelevance within its' corporate environment. Irrelevance results in loss of sales, support, membership and influence. You risk a pervasive sense of frustration and futility within the organization which will cost you your best and most productive employees and volunteers. You risk misallocating resources to ill-defined targets or nebulous organizational effects. You risk your job, your future and your self-esteem as a professional. Do I have your attention?

There are a lot of reasons organizations let their strategic planning atrophy or avoid the idea altogether. We will review the common reasons and address them in subsequent posts. Here are the first five in my Top Ten Excuses that make effective strategy a rare thing:

1. Tyranny of the Now:
Everyone in leadership and senior management believes themselves to be too busy to devote any attention to strategy. They are usually correct: they do have too many short term demands and deadlines. This is, however, an indication of poor time management and lack of effective prioritization.

2. Check off the Box:
The organization has been there, done that, bought the T-shirt on strategic planning. The problem is that the plan sits on a shelf; it is not actioned throughout the organization. Can the receptionist tell me about what his contribution is to achieving the current plan? If not, you do not have a functional strategy.

3. The Rear-View Mirror:
These organizations are focused on correcting the most recently discovered fault/ error/ oversight. Usually by adding more supervision or more individual training. If there is no culture of forward thinking you have no chance to see the structural or systems reasons for repeated errors or create a strategy to avoid that pattern of errors.

4. Organizational Myopia:
This short-sightedness results in focusing the strategy on a narrow functional goal. These short-term goals are usually monetary and always easily measured, for example: to add to the endowment fund/ reserves/ investments/ stock price. For-profit organizations are regularly accused of this focus narrowing but not-for-profits are not immune. Short-range goals are attractive because they are simple and easily understood, but that exclusive focus makes the organization blind in all other areas. The focal length of goals is a responsibility of leadership at the board and senior management levels.

5. Past is Prologue: These organizations and their leadership are complacent. They really believe that the future will look very much like the present and recent past. In fact, disruption comes to all industries. There is an UBER out there for your organization. Do you know what it is? Does your strategy address the implications?

Have we hit your excuse in the list above? More next week....

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