08 Jan

Call It Like It Is

When a prospective client for strategic planning wants to start immediately, I am suspect  As the conversation proceeds, I often learn that the decision to now engage in planning was precipitated by an event or a series of factors that brings the organization past the point of needing a strategic plan.

Rather, they need a contingency or crisis plan. Crisis planning is dealing immediately or in the very short-term with the situation at hand, where strategic planning is forward thinking and assumes a runway of time and resources for implementation.

Strategic planning is a tough task in this fast paced climate. Today I usually advise clients to look at most at a three-year horizon rather than a standard five to ten-year plan of a different era. Moreover, all planning is understood to be rolling, constantly in need of evaluation and revision.

There are plenty of reasons why organizations and their leaders don’t get to strategic planning. They don’t have the leadership, the bandwidth or the expertise in-house needed to complete the plan. Too often organizations come to terms with their need for a plan once they already have a large and looming financial, leadership, programmatic, brand or external environmental issue.

If your organization has a significant problem, face it and deal with it head on. Make sure to get the right people, often those with outside expertise, to help analyze your situation objectively, brainstorm viable strategies and select the best solution.  You may externally call it strategic planning but be clear internally to acknowledge the severity of the situation and tackle it in a realistic and timely manner.

Taking control is empowering. Telling or seeing the truth is the first step. But don’t fool yourself that you have lots of time for a long planning process. The time to act was often months or years ago and certainly is now. Explore options. Restructure. Think outside the box. Be decisive and pick the best course to sustain and position the essence of the organization for health and hopefully, growth.

After things stabilize, then make sure to take the time and put in the effort to engage in regular planning, monitor implementation, measure success, and revisit the plan often to see that it still meets the needs of your organization. The forward thinking required from regular planning often prevents the need for a crisis plan in the first place.

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