Six Reasons Strategic Plans Fail (and what to do instead)

It’s a humorless cliché: the protracted, arduous, and expensive strategic planning process that results in a beautifully bound document gathering dust in the bottom of a file drawer for the next five years.  The all-too-frequent failure of a strategic plan is not because of a lack of interest, talent or commitment.  Rather, the cause is usually one of these six factors: 

It lacks clarity. 

The plan may describe an inspirational mission and vision for your organization.  And maybe add some key goals.  But if the goals are too vague, it’s hard to know what will actually be different once the plan is implemented.  You cannot achieve forward movement without a defined destination.  Your strategic plan must include: 

  • How each goal supports the mission and vision
  • What actions are required to accomplish each goal
  • Who will complete those actions

It takes on too much.

It may seem counterintuitive, but when it comes to strategic planning, less is more.  Often organizations pile every possible goal into their strategic plan.  While 15 goals may feel great, in reality they will be difficult to reach while dealing with the day to day business responsibilities. Develop no more than five critical goals that will drive the desired growth of the organization.  

No buy-in.

If you are part of a team that is more than just you, getting buy in and contribution from every member is key.  Perhaps you have experienced the outside “expert” coming in and developing a strategic plan not grounded in reality?  The key to any successful strategy is the team that actually does the work.  Getting their contribution and buy in is essential for creating a successful implementation. 

Lack of follow-through.

A great plan is a good start.  However, without a defined implementation plan and accountabilities it won’t happen.  If the organization doesn’t change its internal structure and processes, it won’t happen.  And if leadership fails to allocate time and resources to implement it, it can’t happen. Establish clear responsibilities, accountabilities and deadlines.  And make sure that a leader or project manager is monitoring the progress. 

The world changes and the plan doesn’t.

2020 has been a sharp reminder that the world really can change almost instantaneously.  A strategic plan is based on certain reasonable assumptions made at the time it is written, but it is also a living document.  Review your plan frequently—no less than quarterly—and make any tweaks, changes, or huge pivots as needed.   

The strategy is just…bad.

To be effective,  your plan needs to include sound strategies.  Not understanding your market, the key differentiators for your organization, or trying to copy what someone else is doing won’t work. Make sure that the strategies you are incorporating are valid and that appropriate metrics are in place to measure their effectiveness. 

If you are struggling with your strategy, or not sure where to start, let’s talk.  Take advantage of our no cost, no pressure consultation so that we can talk through what you need and how to make it happen.

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Gayle Boyer and Associates, LLC