”True strategy is about placing bets and making hard choices. The objective is not to eliminate risk but to increase the odds of success."
- Roger L. Martin
Strategy v Planning
Strategy is a funny beast.
The strategic planning process is sometimes misunderstood.
Managers are often keen to work a strategic plan into a long list of action steps with timelines, accountability and measurements all being morphed into what is then referred to as a strategic plan.
What is the difference between a plan and a strategy, then?
The simple answer is that a plan provides certainty and safety, whereas strategy involves that niggling feeling of being slightly out of your comfort zone...
The confusion exists because we refer to it as a "strategic plan", when it's actually more of a Research-the-Possibilities/Create-Strategies/Plan-Actions-That-Follow-the-Strategic-Direction kind of exercise.
The problem with treating it as a plan, rather than a strategy, is that it's too tempting to fall back into old habits, onto old assumptions and out of a strategic mindset that will allow your organisation to grow.
Strategy isn't just about planning and task lists. It's about testing long-standing assumptions and calculated risk-taking, which is why it is often useful to have a strategy facilitator. A great deal of the work is done before any planning. Preliminary research, analysis and evaluation is integral to ensuring that strategy can be created on firm foundations of evidence-based knowledge.
So, it's still a strategic plan, right?
Ultimately, you end up with a detailed plan that can put your organisational goals and strategies into practice.
You just don't want to skip the strategic process (which can be uncertain), by jumping straight into the safety of planning.
Our Strategic Planning Process
Strategy Facilitation & Implementation
Past, Present & Future
Spindle wants organisations to get the most out of the strategic planning process and this means understanding what the organisation has been through, how it is currently positioned, and what potentially lies ahead - in the micro and macro environment.
Strategic Direction & Ambition
Utilising the data from the Research stage, this creative phase merges forecasts with the company's core purpose, to form ambitions for the organisation - particularly the where-to-play & how-to-win elements.
This is the stage that many organisations fast-forward through because there are many unknowns. However, they can be dealt with in the next stage...
This is the stage that most organisations feel comfortable with. There are priorities to be made, tasks to assign and goals to meet.
Many companies are ineffective at implementing the strategic plan organisation-wide. Internal communication, training or onboarding is often overlooked, but this is the best way of ensuring the company's new strategic plan is fully adopted and operational.
Spindle's process is hands-on and thorough. There is no real average timeframe for strategy, as it ultimately depends on the size of the company and how implementation is carried out. No organisation is completely the same, and at Spindle we recommend that organisations work at the pace that suits them and their stakeholders.