Learning the Right Approach to Strategic Planning
In previous articles, I have introduced the criteria for effective strategic plans. And I’ve also discussed why it’s important to provide managers with strategic planning training. In this article, I will talk about my approach to helping managers and leaders to learn strategic planning techniques that will position them for success. And, in particular, why I have chosen this unique approach to strategic planning training.
What are the problems with strategic planning today?
As I have mentioned in previous articles and videos – strategic planning is often misunderstood and under-utilized. And so, some organizations may not realize the importance of strategic planning training. This is in part due to the over simplification of strategic planning, and/or using only a small component of the overall process (that is, skipping many steps!). And while on the other side, we don’t want to over-complicate processes, we also don’t want to lose the necessary rigour.
Often, the strategic plan itself looks very simple. And it should be! But there is a lot of work behind the scenes to lead to this simple, concise document. As many experts have expressed – it is the process of planning that is often more valuable than the final output. When the full strategic planning process is followed, the organization learns much about opportunities and risks. They gain a better understanding of their customers and competitors. Executive, managers and employees analyze and discuss options, and eventually come to agreement on the course of action.
Different approaches to learn strategic planning
No doubt if you have googled “strategic planning training”, you will see a wide variety of different options. But let me summarize 3 general categories:
–Strategic planning is usually introduced in under-graduate business programs. And it is generally covered in depth in a Masters of Business Administration. Depending on the long-term goals of both the organization and the individual, there may be some advantage of investing in this long-term approach. But some of the disadvantages include; 1) it is expensive and time consuming 2) it is focused on large and complex organizations.
– this is a very broad category. But generally, I am referring here to professional development type courses that focus on very practical tools and techniques. This is where I focus my strategic management courses. Rather than purely academic learning, we incorporate case studies and exercises that are relevant to the issues managers face on a day-to-day basis.
There are a variety of different approaches to this type of training. For example, Strategic planning courses may be offered as 1) night courses through a local university, 2) customized, trainer led workshops 3) online, on-demand learning – as my courses are designed to allow participants to progress through an online program at their own pace.
In house trainer or mentor
– this can be effective if the person doing the training has 1) thorough knowledge of the subject 2) effective training and mentoring skills 3) sufficient time and interest to mentor others. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case – which can cause ineffective strategic planning techniques to be perpetuated in your organization.
The bottom line is that you need to consider the “fit” with the size and complexity of your organization. And you also might want to consider the career goals of your employees. Training is often considered a major perk that can aid with retaining your best employees.
A more effective approach to learn strategic planning
I have observed that many courses focus on the “technical” aspects. That is – we jump into the general theory and techniques of strategic planning. But through my research, work and observations, I believe managers need an approach that helps them understand the underlying problem that needs to be solved. Therefore, I believe to learn strategic planning effectively, we first need to understand the barriers that can lead to failure. In my strategy course, we start there. And we then explore the strategic planning techniques, tools and processes to overcome these barriers.
One of the biggest barriers to success is that organizations often go through strategic planning without having a clear purpose. In fact, I find people are often surprised to even consider that there can be more than one purpose. Isn’t it just something we need to have? But without clear purpose, how do you define the outcomes you need to achieve? How do you design the process? Who should be involved? How will decisions be made?
For example – how important is it to engage stakeholders? Is it more important to get it done quickly and effectively? There are pros and cons of each – so it is necessary to understand your purpose. For some organizations, stakeholder engagement is critical. In this case, we need to design the strategic planning process to include this. But for those businesses where efficiency is more important, their strategic planning process would look quite different. These questions are often linked to the vision and goals of the organization. And as you can see – your purpose can lead to very different types of strategic planning processes.
Get started with our applied learning system
My strategic planning course starts with this big picture, but does include all the technical detail you will need to lead an effective strategic planning process. And I believe managers will learn best when they can apply the knowledge to real experiences. By including exercises, case study and reflection, participants learn strategic planning in a practical way that can be scaled to the size, complexity and needs of their organization. And because these online courses are always available (24/7), each participant can learn at their own pace and go back to various sections as and when they become relevant in their work place.
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