Photo by Mario Gogh

For-profit and non-profit organizations can dramatically improve their quality decision-making by applying ‘smart quality’ filters to their strategic planning. 

Is your organization caught in the “debate and wait” syndrome? If it is, there are likely patterns that need to be changed. For decades, organizations have used strategic planning as a stapled tool to rethink what they are going to do about something and how they will shape their business strategy. Today, most organizations are attempting this process due to Covid-19 and the incredible changes it forced into the business marketplace. 

An ambitious overhaul of an organization’s strategy is a major task. The typical approach requires the leaders of business units to present existing and new ideas to the organization’s steering committee. But this process is arduous and often denigrates into a beauty pageant of endless and frankly often boring PowerPoint™ presentations. Executives grow tired of watching the endless parade of rehashed ideas that do not challenge conventional wisdom. And worst of all, very few lead to smart strategies that are capable of truly innovating.

This old process simply does not work anymore. 

The market moves too quickly to stay current with market dynamics and changes. Several things in the process need to be changed to make quality strategic decisions truly smart. We think you will benefit enormously by implementing these newer best practice filters into your everyday process.

  • Replace calendar-driven focused planning with continuous issues-focused decision-making. For some organizations, this departure from this common practice changes the planning process. Focusing the team on the organization’s most challenging issues brings instant alignment within a combined group think.
  • Change top management’s discussions about strategy from “review and approve” to “debate and decide.” Critical thinking of this kind requires that top management allows everyone on the team to challenge any idea and the status quo, regardless of how long it’s been in use. It also requires that senior executives seriously rethink each major decision from all angles, including how a strategy will be implemented and the many implications on staff and the market.
  • Stop making plans and start making decisions. The point of a meeting is not to meet. It’s to make a decision. How many meetings have you attended where after an idea has been thoroughly discussed a decision was put off to another meeting? It’s mind-numbing to calculate the number of hours, days, weeks, and even months that an organization will take before it makes a strategic decision.

The worst part of the old process is that executive decisions are often made outside the strategic planning process, not because of it. The time it takes for traditional planning is way out of reach for many companies today because they need decisions right now. Unfortunately, as a result, many executives question the value of strategic planning or shy away from it due to the required time commitment. In our view, this is equally in error because the value of a highly successful strategy is vital to any organization’s future. 

MarketCues regularly surveys hundreds of company executives and finds they feel constrained by their organization’s strategic planning process. In effect, what they want and need to do has become burdensome to many. They “debate and wait” and then repeat the process without coming to a decision, so we recommend the three best practices above. We have seen them succeed extremely well when implemented into an organization’s strategic planning process.