Is your strategy plan really strategic?

Is your strategy plan really strategic?

The word “strategy” is a most overused and misunderstood term.

Most organizations have a strategy or a strategic plan, but it is often just a collection of projects or actions that may or may not have an impact on the future direction of the firm or organization. Do you have a strategy or just a bunch of projects or actions strung together on a piece of paper marked “strategy?”

How do you know the difference? Try by asking the following questions about your strategy:

    • Is your strategy transformational? Will the actions included in your strategic plan bring you to a new level of future success or make you something that you must become in the future to either compete or survive? Or basically, will it make you something you are not today but wish you could be? For example:
      • Will you be # 2 in your industry?
      • Will you become the most customer-centric company in the market place?
      • Will you be the most cost-effective public institution in the state?
    • Is there a clear and overarching theme that binds each and all “strategic” initiatives, actions or projects together? Or on a more basic level, does everyone in the organization know why they are working on these projects—often taking valuable time away from their day-to-day operating responsibilities? If manager and employees just see work associated with strategic plans projects as a “flavor of the day” priority, it probably is just that—and not strategic at all.
    • How will you know you have won? That is a simple question, but one not often asked nor included in a strategic plan.

I often tell clients that they should start their strategic planning process by writing A Statement of Strategy. Such a statement is a concisely written document that outlines the definition of “transformational” for your company and the overarching theme that will bind all future actions of your strategic plan together. If you are at Point A today, what is Point B and why are you going there?  I also caution that it is important to write your strategic plan without relying on financial data—in short write it without any numbers. This is done to avoid having strategic planning become nothing but a budgeting exercise.

Of course, there is only one “number” that we will allow. That is a clear definition (or benchmark) that will describe how the company will know it has succeeded in fulfilling or implementing its strategy. Use your imagination as to what such a benchmark may be for your organization. It may be simple performance data like: sales or profits or comparative market statistics, customer opinions or outcomes, or a major event like a completed competitor acquisition. How will you know you have won?

Is your strategic plan “strategic”? Ask the above questions, and see if you can answer all three in the affirmative. If so, you likely have an effective structure for a strategic plan—ready to be implemented. If not, have the management reset, sit down and write a (your) Statement of Strategy. Then proceed with creating a strategic plan.

Wilkening & Company has worked with clients in the creation and implementation of successful enterprise strategic plans. Our approach is unique and focuses upon matching and linking strategic objectives to the strengths of the organization. To learn more about our approach search for prior articles we have published on the subject. Type in “strategic planning” on the Corner Office E-Notes tab at We can also be reached at (847) 823-5090.

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