Recently I was asked to comment on the question: Who is or should be responsible for Strategic Planning? Several people responded. Here is my response:
Of course I agree that the CEO is the ultimate decider of the final strategic plan. Strategy is the CEOs primary job and also one of the key areas of attention for the Board. While I agree with the philosophy of the other respondents, I don’t believe the responses take the issue of “who” to a deep enough level.
I respectfully suggest that the CEO get input from many fronts. Unfortunately, too often, the CEO’s executives are telling him/her just what they think the CEO wants to hear and often what has been acceptable in the past. The input isn’t pure. Often there is no new thought, even though they may think there is.The CEO needs to get unbiased information, about the business as it is, the markets as they are, the customers that they have, the competitors they now fend off and the situation as it looks for the future.
Those are the traditional inputs. Strategic planning is all about making solid, reliable and competent decisions for the future. To achieve this, CEOs need not only the traditional information, but fresh perspectives to expand their vision of the future.This fresh input is critical to success. The input should be from sources not previously considered; from people not previously asked, markets not previously tapped, in industries and from sources never before explored.
Many of you will say, but we are already brainstorming. But what is directing your brainstorming thought process? Are you using specific tools or methods? In traditional strategic planning we use the tools we know like the SWOT analysis, brainstorming where we throw ideas on the wall and see what sticks and financial history. Most of the time the results bear little if any real and new fruit. If anything comes of it at all, there are a few changes made, a little efficiency gained and maybe even a little competitive advantage realized, that within a few weeks, the competitors have figured out and matched. No real benefit here.
There are tools now and people who can teach you how to use them, that will create very different, reproducible, defensible results. Every company needs strategic planning and execution processes that are robust and provide clarity to every stakeholder making them accountable to the company’s strategies.
So going back to the original question, who is responsible for strategic planning, of course it is the CEO. Hopefully the CEO is strong enough and receptive enough to look at methods, tools and sources for planning that will not only make the company more competitive in the current markets and competitive field, but just might open up an entire new market that the competition has never even thought about.
Dr. Sarah Layton CMC, FIMC
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