Sunday, July 5, 2015

How do we know we are doing the right thing?

Challenging both the strategic planning process and the actual strategic plan makes organizations better at adapting in these changing times.  Often establishments fall victim to merely tweaking last year’s strategic plan or going through a formal strategic planning process.  Instead The Real Value of Strategic Planning helps us understand ‘challenging the strategy’ to be most important. By questioning the scope, choices and process of strategic plans, companies can test their approach and decisions as they plan for the future. 

Likewise this is true with educational institutions.  James O. Luke in his paper, Effective Strategic Planning for Disruptive and Challenging Times, talks about the evolving climate of higher education with regards to strategic planning.  In a time of disruptive change, institutions need to be more agile than ever.  They cannot cling to their analog history or they will be left behind in the digital future. They need to be open and honest in the face of planning and nimble in their thoughts of long term expectations.  Strategic plans must question how the organization handles change and responds to new opportunities. The process must be action oriented and purposeful not just lead to endless inspection and scrutiny.

The participatory approach and the engaged learning conversations of the strategic planning process are instrumental in creating the plan and also help while challenging the plan.  Questioning and poking at the organizations focus helps to reestablish perspectives if the business’s wind blows in another direction.  Open-ended questions and “what-if” scenarios can position the organization in a more confident decision making position.  Knowing answers to questions like how will the organization act in the face of an economic downturn? If a budget needs to be cut by 15% within 30 days to take on a new, unexpected opportunities, what actions would be taken?  If suddenly there was a loss of customers by 40% due to an advance in technology, how would the institution regain ground? Do we have the right people in the right places? What happens if a key leader in our organization leaves? Do we have a succession plan for those talents? Can we sustain expansions of services or new product lines?  If fact, in the Forbes article The Death of Strategic Planning: What Next? from early last year insists that companies must at the very least create contingency plans for both increased and decreased demand of their products, plan for major swings in relative costs and prepare for sudden technology changes. “Developing flexibility for an uncertain economy should be on every company’s planning agenda.”  Companies need to design for the unexpected and build strategies for the probable. 

Challenging these strategies creates the preparedness that is necessary in a rapidly changing economic climate.  In order to set organizations up to succeed, leaders must question the mediocrity and status quo, take on the hard questions and solve problems that don’t quite exist. They must make efforts to come together, share information and audit their approaches knowing this can mean the difference between winning and losing. 
Higher Learning Commission, 2014 Collection of Papers, Effective Strategic Planning for Disruptive and Challenging Times, James O. Luke

Forbes, The Death of Strategic Planning: What Next? 3/24/2015

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