Bait & switch

I just read a strategic plan that has my blood boiling.  You could change the organization's name and have that strategic plan apply equally well to any membership driven organization in Canadian health care.  All the buzz words are there; the section headings follow the standard SWOT steps; all the same excuses are there for lack of member response to the standard survey and for why the goals, strategies and tactics suggested are pretty much the same as the current goals, strategies and tactics.  If they were so effective, why do another strategic plan?

This work was done by a well-known and large consulting firm for a mid-size organization with a healthy bank account, so no harm done, right?  WRONG!  We can't afford the resulting complacency.  Since when is making strategic decision based on a 20% response rate defensible?  Those are most likely the left and right tails of the opinion curve and you have no idea what the majority or median opinion is.  Don't you care?  You should if you want any real support for your strategic direction.  Oh yeah, no worries there either right? There is no significant innovation in strategic direction. 

Why no innovation?  Well, we have to assume that the analysis of likely and preferred futures led the board to support the status quo: no course direction required.  The SWOT analysis must have indicated no significant change in members, stakeholders, customers, organizational contexts inside or outside.  Really?  Seriously?

How does this happen?  Junior consultants, often an interchangeable array of them, following the firm's templates keeps the billable hours well within the contract limit.  The lead consultant, whose name is on the proposal, is long gone chasing other work.  And none of this was actually designed to produce real outcomes anyway. 

Change is a process that starts by how the questions are asked, and who is involved in those answers.  Inducing consensus on what the important questions are across the organization is the main work.  This takes time and skill, particularly if you want to explore something other than the status quo.  Producing a report is not the culmination of the process; real lived preferred change is.

Isn't that why we invest in strategic work; to be strategic?  Or is it just to reinforce our current prejudices and opinions, and put a check mark by the operational goal of having a doorstop document with a title "Strategic Plan"?  I'm just sayin'!

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