The hidden benefits of well-conducted strategic planning

by Ali Taleb, MBA, MSc., PMP The ultimate objective of strategic planning is to craft an actionable strategic plan. However, the impact of a well-conducted planning process goes way beyond this final goal as it can promote teamwork, foster communication, boost motivation, and nurture an integrated vision of the business among stakeholders. Primary purpose of strategic planning Failing to plan is planning to fail, that is what the proverb says. And, this is particularly true nowadays as the complexity and globalization of business is growing. To navigate uncertainty, organisations need a practical roadmap that takes into account: • The mission the organisation has chosen to pursue. Whether it is formal or implied, most businesses have some sort of vision for their future development. This is essentially driven by management’s preferences. • The internal constraints that restrain management preferences and moderate their ambitions. From all possible initiatives, an optimal portfolio of projects must be formed to fit the organisation’s capabilities and structure. • The pressure that external forces exert on the organisation. It is vital to understand market dynamics and driving forces – political, economical, societal and technological – in order to take advantage of opportunities and avert threats. A superior strategic plan is the one that achieves the best balance between what management would like to do, what the organisation’s internal capabilities allow to achieve, and what must be done based on the nature and the strength of the pressure from outside the organisation. But, besides the actual plan, the way the process is conducted may have a tremendous impact on the overall performance of the organisation. Strategic planning as a team-building catalyst During the planning process, multi-disciplinary and cross-functional teams rely on each other to gather data, challenge assumptions, and make informed decisions. The process gives participants a unique opportunity to work together. While trying to reach consensus on global issues beyond their usual scope, participants focus on the organisation’s mission rather than their own agendas. As a result, they appreciate that successful endeavour is about teamwork – leveraging and integrating individual strengths and efforts. Strategic planning as a communication trigger Participants from various levels of the organisation get together to tackle the same issues and work toward the same objective – articulate a plan that reflects the organisation’s internal strengths and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and treats.

Frequent multi-levels interaction minimizes organisational barriers and allows participants to evaluate their own ability to communicate or absorb, depending on their individual position and responsibility, the sense of their organisation’s vision, mission, values and strategy. Strategic planning as a mobilization tool The personal satisfaction participants might feel at the end of the process should ease the buy-in and ownership of the defined plan. Fulfilled participants become the best advocates of the new strategy and their role in cascading objectives to the rest of the organisation is instrumental because, as the management guru Peter Drucker puts it, "unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans." As most organisations have adopted the management by objectives approach to motivate and mobilize their troops, employees must buy into the organisation’s strategy and understand how individual objectives fit into the bigger picture. In closing The way the process is conducted is as critical as the quality of the plan for the ultimate success of the new strategy. If planning process is poorly done, there is a genuine risk of failure when it comes to the most critical stage of any winning strategy – execution. Because of the importance of both the substance and the form, many organisations minimize the risk of failure by leveraging their internal expertise in business knowledge while relying on external expertise to steer the process. Experienced consultants bring in an unbiased outlook, deep understanding of the process and its pitfalls, and the rigor of proven methods to make the process enjoyable and the plan valuable. About the Author: Ali is a senior consultant with over fifteen years of experience working for a number of large multinationals, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations internationally. Ali has also been a successful entrepreneur and has held progressive and diverse management positions in several corporations. Ali’s expertise includes: Strategic Planning and Execution; Process Re-engineering; Project Management; Program Management and Change Management. Thanks to his unique blend of experience, expertise and personality, Ali has a broad perspective of business challenges; a pragmatic approach to tackle issues and a proven ability to deliver results that produce tangible benefits that impact the bottom line. Ali holds a Masters degree in Engineering (MSc) from the University of Paris; a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification as designated by the Project Management Institute (PMI). Currently Ali is working with a number of high profile clients developing and enhancing PMOs. To contact Ali please email About SPM: SPM is a leading management consulting boutique focused on Strategic Project Management. Informed by our breadth of vision and specialized expertise, our offering ranges from the specific to total, integrated end-to-end solutions. It rests on one great strength – our people. Consummate professionals with deep expertise and passionate commitment, the SPM team works closely with clients to formulate and implement powerful business strategies.

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