Finding liberation in strategic planning by Carl Sylvestre

In reviewing the outcome of a recent campaign, a team raised the following question, “what if we had done this instead, what would have been the outcome?” Of course we will never know, the road we didn’t take doesn’t add up to anything. It never happened.  What we can control is the present and to think about the road ahead. These options are at the heart of strategic planning and if the process is approached within the right frame, it opens new doors and it can be a liberating experience for all involved.

Strategic planning is about looking at choices and the trade-offs that we anticipate. To some this is fun, but for others it is fought with tension.  For a period of time, a team is faced with the actions and recommendations that can have a tremendous impact on their lives and that of their customers.  That comes with great responsibilities.  Within that framework strategic planning is viewed as a straight jacket that monitors and locks in place our movements.  For example, if we decide that this marketing strategy is built the foundation of the X-axis, then the Y-axis goes further apart and their intersections should never meet.  These are big decisions that are often seemed to be avoided at all cost and reduces the value of strategic planning. We can’t see the future why develop long-range plans based on assumptions when the real challenge is living in the moment.

Yet, if strategic planning is viewed as creating new roads to alter the challenges of the present then it becomes a liberating tool.  It is by looking at our options that we open up and start imagining that there has got to be a better way to build this mousetrap.  What is often missing in strategic planning is the dare to put the big vision on the table and start thinking of all the options beyond the textbook scenarios.  There will never be one path to achieve a goal, but one that has to be tested time and time again.

Strategies do not stay the same.  A good strategy must recognize that the external environment will have surprises and the one thing that remains constant is our vision.  Who would have thought only a few years ago that a major section of our marketing plan would be devoted to social media? However, the vision remains to find ways to enhance the interaction with our customers.

Good strategy means that we have to plan to adapt. Our challenge is to have the courage to build that into our planning scenario for the future.  Thus, as we monitor the plan we are open to new possibilities rather than being paralyzed by them. If we approach strategy as taking control of our future, then it is a liberating entry point to get everyone engaged in this process. The questions will not be about the road we didn’t take, but rather on the new road that we built.