When I was a hospital risk manager, I learned early that it is easier to defend an organization when people are consistent with their behaviors. Even if it meant they were consistently wrong, it was the consistency that mattered. In my management consulting career, I have seen organizations give up on change because rather than working consistently toward their goals in small incremental stages, they give up without accomplishing much of anything. It is the small changes over time that transforms organizations.
Strategic planning isn’t about an annual exercise done by the governing board and executives. Being strategic means make it a working plan so small but consistent movement can be applied to reaching the organization’s goals. Transformation cannot occur overnight, but many times an organization will fall back into patterns of monotony and stagnation rather than move forward in baby steps. A wise leader will see that the tortoise was strategic in his race against the hare. It isn’t the speed that wins the race—it’s the consistency of movement toward accomplishing the plan.
A strategic plan is nothing more than an intense weekend retreat if it isn’t broken down to a work plan so assignments and tasks can be delegated. Once these are assigned to a person or department, expectations can be set for accountability purposes. A status report should be monitored to track progress. The monitoring will encourage consistency. If we know someone is watching our actions, we are more apt to be consistent toward our goals. Waiting until annual performance reviews to check progress is not only unacceptable but also not fair to your organization. Communication between the responsible person(s) is necessary to effectively reach an organization’s goals.
One of the failures of strategic planning occurs when money begins to be spent without a plan in place. Money is wasted on trying to meet perceived expectations because the real expectations have not yet been communicated. It is difficult, if not impossible, for an organization to work consistently toward its goals when monies have already run out because of poor planning. It is always sad to see a half-completed building left standing vacant when an organization did not have the funding to complete the project. Having a strategic plan in place can minimize financial surprises.
Lack of planning, in general, will prevent an organization from bringing positive transformation to a company. It will also result in inconsistencies of daily operations. There will be transformation in this organization too, but not the kind that most executives want in their portfolio.
It is not uncommon for companies to hire strategists and management consultants to help with the development and implementation of a strategic plan. It is important to recognize that an external company cannot determine the consistency of the organization. The strategic plan must reflect the goals of the organization and the work plan must be delegated to staff to assure the consistency for transformation. The most frustrating thing about being a management consultant is when companies revert to their old habits and ways after the consultant leaves the organization. We can’t want success for your organization more than you want it. A strategic plan is only as good as the work effort made internally by the organization in a consistent manner toward reaching the goals.
Under your executive leadership, your organization can reach the goals identified by the strategic planning process. It is your example of moving consistently toward the finish line that will bring success to your organization. As Lynn Ridenour said, “Small acts really add up to big transformation.”