I was working with a medium-sized organization recently that finally admitted what many others out there already know, strategic planning doesn’t always work.  My client was now waving the white flag and giving up – calling in the troops and looking for another approach.

It seems that every time they created ‘a new vision’ and tried to build a plan around it, nothing would happen.  Each year brought a new idea, a new approach, a new vision and another fail.

Numerous online sources will use the number 60% these days – the share of strategic plans that never get off the ground and of the other 40%, they suggest, at least half were not implemented successfully.

My client is not on their own on this.   Many other organizations, public and private sector, large and small are feeling this pain.

So why?

Here are 6 reasons for failed strategic plans.

1.   Poor planning.
Right from the start, the strategic planning process was flawed, caused by the wrong participants in the planning process, wrong timing and poor data.  There was no foundation and so it becomes a guaranteed fail.

2.  Ego.
Someone gets it in their mind to move from A to B, or build something new or grow at a new pace or acquire someone or something.   This ‘someone’ came up with the idea and thus has become incredibly passionate about the results, eventually talking themselves into a guaranteed success before any plan is created.  As a result, none of the ground work is completed and we are forced into a straight line to action well before we should. This ego immediately spoils the process and thus the resulting plan is flawed.

3.  Not enough time or resources.
Great ideas require a solid team with enough time to make it happen. So, often the great plan is handed off to a team that already has its hands full – again guaranteeing another fail.

4.  Lack of buy-in.
Sure, everyone in the room during the planning process is on board – but that is a far cry from a full buy-in. Very often, we will see the senior team create a vision that seems strong and implementable to them but one that turns out to be far-fetched and unimplementable to most others. Fail.

5.  A disconnect between the plan and the ongoing work
That we engage in every day. In plain terms, we all go back to work.  It is very easy to slide back to our comfort zone – our daily responsibilities – rather than tackle the unknown produced by the latest strategic plan.

6.  A lack of authority.
No one is ultimately responsible and thus no one has been empowered to make it all happen.  Every strategic plan needs one person accountable for its success and that person needs to have the authority to open doors, demand support and to be able to authorize whatever it takes to make it happen.  Best bet… the CEO.

Yes, some strategic plans work, and they really are a sight to behold.  But most of us have a lot of work to do.


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