Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Is Strategic Planning an Oxymoron?


"Strategic planning is an oxymoron.  Strategic thinking does not lead to a plan, it leads to a strategy.  Rather, planning must follow strategy.  If you don’t want to call it operational planning, call it “ Planning that Follows Strategy.” - The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, by Henry Mintzberg

I have been pondering over the true meaning of strategic planning for sometime and that how it differs from planning. That is when I hit upon this article which compelled me to think whether a term like "strategic planning" does exist.

Real strategies have always been made in an informal setting - in office hallways while stooping over water machine, on play grounds or in a battlefield (that is what we learned in first lecture). So for me, thinking of a conglomerate of upper management, decked up in their best suites, in a plush conference room, in a given time frame banging their heads to make strategic plan seems a little out of place.

"Strategic Planning isn't like Strategic Thinking. One is analysis, and the other is synthesis."

When the concept of Strategic Planning was introduced in 1960s, it was the managers hailed it as the best way to create and implement strategies in order to enhance competency. However, it has morphed in several ways now and the true reason behind this is, that people fail to distinguish between strategic planning and strategic thinking. Strategic planning mars vision and that is where the oxymoron lies, as strategies are all about vision and not plans. When management is able to make a distinguish between strategic thinking and plan, then they can successfully get back to a strategy making process - Capturing learning from sources and then synthesizing learning into a vision. Strategic thinking, as recognized, never requires a formal setting. It may be useful for planning. A plan so made, led by strategic thinking can provide cutting-edge competency to the management.

References:
The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning - by Henry Mintzberg
http://strategybydesign.org/strategic-planning/
http://www.nais.org/Magazines-Newsletters/ISMagazine/Pages/Strategic-Planning-is-an-Oxymoron.aspx
http://www.performancesolutionstech.com/strategic-planning-an-oxymoron/
http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/html/cem/cem98/cem9814.html
http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/the-real-value-of-strategic-planning/


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