In this wonderful article by Terrie Temkin, the author shares findings that were made after conducting several different field research exercises in a variety of settings.
The field research was to determine how exactly people implement their strategic planning in health care industries, as well as in and other settings. What Temkin argues is that there is no uniformity among organizations as to how they
- 1. Choose the goals
- 2. Conduct the meetings
- 3. Establish the strategies
- 4. Carry them out
- 5. Look back in to them
In Temkin's argument, companies have no clear idea on how the process works. Some of them believe that awarding an entire weekend to what they call "strategic planning" is to sit around and wait for ideas to come.
In other organizations, the bulk of this responsibility is left on the shoulders of a few who volunteer to serve as facilitators for this particular task, without knowing exactly what to do. The rest of the company, those who do not volunteer (or care), just rest on those making the strategic planning without buying into the process, which is a fatal mistake that leads to miscommunication and tension.
There are still other organizations that make another mistake: They do not assign specific tasks or roles to those participating within the project. They allow for "the process" to be at the center of the meeting with people pecking and picking at it. That is also a fatal flaw that leads to tension and miscommunication.
It is universally known that each member of a group must have a role, a goal, and a reason to be there. This is not what is taking place in many organizations, according to Temkin, and this is because of an overall lack of solid leadership skills and organizational skills, as well.
Another issue is that companies take "buzzwords" and quickly apply them to their agendas without really knowing what the buzzwords entail.
A very popular idea going around is that of "strategic thinking boards". Temkin proposes a paradigm shift to be applied to the use of this particular tool. This is because, once again, leaders without a plan will just go and start a "dream board" or "shift board" without the mission of the organization in mind, or without looking at data that shows which direction to take.
Organizations search out the best and the brightest to sit on their boards. However, all toomany of the organizations then ask these talented individuals to do little more than listen to a series of reports.
So invested are group in the "idea" of it, and not in the process, that it all becomes too chaotic. So chaotic, in fact, that the underlying problems already going on in the organization come into the surface at the sight of yet another project with no true goal in mind.
Questions -- the underpinnings of strategic thinking -- are often discouraged either because they lengthen the meeting or challenge the leadership. This type of behavior must change. We need to encourage not discourage questions.
Instead, a lot of money is spent on gimmicks and buzztools (such as huge cardboard "dream boards", or applications for meetings), without knowing that it takes twelve steps to implement an effective strategic thinking board, and that all the answers to each step must be data-driven.
Included in the twelve steps are:
Potential - Is it worth it?
Philosophy - The values of the organization
Image- Is this who we are?
Stakeholders needs- Will they buy into it?
other important parts of the process are to be considered "at large"
Level of sophistication- Are we ready for this?
Life Cycle- How long will this strategy last?
World view- Is this strategy traditional or entrepreneurial?
In theory, and to anyone who has ever studied business structures, the accepted structure of a strategic planning group should goal oriented and data driven. Temkin says this is not the case in many settings, and so the actual concept of the planning cannot work if it continued to be treated "as is".