Monday, October 18, 2010

Is the future a priority for your organization?

How much time do you spend doing strategic planning?

Awhile back I was speaking at a national conference which included executives from both the public and private sectors. We were focused on management initiatives that make a real difference: strategic planning, performance measurement, process improvement, performance budgeting, and so on.

After my presentation, the Director of Strategic Planning for Sprint Nextel Corporation led another workshop. He shared his company’s strategic planning process, who was involved, how and why they did it and what they got out of it. I asked a question and remember his answer all too well.

I asked how many days his senior management spent each year in strategic planning. He said that his senior management spent 16 days per year doing strategic planning. As the CEO of Weidner, Inc. – obviously a much smaller company – I spend 3 weeks or 15 days per year doing strategic planning.

By contrast and with a bare few exceptions, the government executives we have worked with over the past twelve years have felt uneasy spending more than a day or two away from operations to do Strategic Planning. This is usually a cue that strategic planning is not viewed as part of the job.

How many days this year will you devote to strategic planning? The inherent value of that number alone, as an output, is limited. But what it says is invaluable. If we take a close look at how we spend our time, we will have a pretty clear picture of our priorities.

  • How much time do you spend considering the issues and trends impacting your customers and your organization, then developing goals and strategies for staying in front of them?

  • How much time does your executive team spend on setting strategic direction that informs short term decisions to create that future or achieve those longer term results?

  • Are you clear about the results you want?

  • How much effort do you put into communicating the strategic direction of the organization to your workforce?, Without this, how can the people in your organization use their creativity to contribute to the future goals of the organization?

  • As we all know, the pace of change is staggering and is only increasing. Governments are truly challenged to stay abreast of those changes, let alone stay out in front and lead them. Strategic planning helps to ensure that we are regularly and systematically “looking around the corner” at what is emerging and deciding what to do about it. Strategic planning helps us be clear about how we focus that rarest of resources: our attention.

    Governments struggle to make decisions that keep pace with the needs of our community or state. Strategic Planning keeps us looking forward and making decisions today that will create the future we want.

    So, how much of a priority is strategic planning for you and your executive team and is it part of the job?

    Strategic planning – it can only be as timely as the time you give it.

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