Strategy Hacks #2…..Box Checked Already?

Over the past few weeks we have collected excuses that attempt to justify non-existent or inoperable strategic plans.  This series will outline diagnoses and treatment plans for these malignant conditions.  Don’t be complacent.  If you are using these apologies you will become irrelevant quicker than you can say Uber or BlockChain.

Excuse #2: Checked off the Box

You get called in for a chat with a frustrated CEO who reports that her board chair is anxious to improve performance metrics that have been steadily declining over the past three quarters.  Asked about the strategic plan the CEO replies, “It can’t be a problem there.  We had a retreat last year and wrote up a plan.  I have it right here.  Somewhere in that bookcase behind you with the board minutes. I’ll make you a copy.”


A functional strategic plan is not a year old document that can be photocopied.  It is an action document that is constantly updated and adjusted based on results and feedback.  If the CEO doesn’t have that action plan monitored somehow in real time it is not strategic.

The next test is how wide spread throughout the organization is deep understanding of that actioned strategic plan?  Can everyone from the board chair to the receptionist articulate their current contribution to the plan and how well they are doing in achieving that contribution?  If not, you do not have a functional strategy.

The third test that I use is to check for awareness and reaction to negative results and black swans.  An initial plan may be brilliant but it might not entirely work to produce intended results.  Or unintended results may be significantly negative.  Or something unexpected occurs.  Truly strategic organizations will already have in place mechanisms to adjust appropriately in all these situations



The CEO feels that she 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.  The primary fault here is the CEO’s bias of overconfidence.  She held the planning retreat, wrote up and distributed the outcomes, then left it there for everyone to implement. 

Strategic planning is a process not a product.  An effective strategic planning process involves and excites everyone in the organization about their shared future and their shared responsibility to make that happen.   Everyone needs to have access to real-time metrics on the strategic plan results and how well their particular contribution is going.  They also need support within the organization to keep trying, to find ever better ways to realize goals and to celebrate individual and group successes along the way.

Managing this process on the staff side is the responsibility of the CEO.  The board’s responsibility, managed by the board chair, is to insure that the strategic plan elements connect well with desired organizational outcomes and that these outcomes serve the organization’s stakeholders.

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