Strategic Planning Smothers InnovationBy: Jim Clemmer
From a standing start, a financial services company had two decades of very strong growth. They were entrepreneurial and opportunistic. New products, services, and distribution channels evolved and developed as the leaders passionately pulled the organization toward their vision. But its growth wasn't always a pretty sight. Product and service ideas seemed to come from the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong ways, and for all the wrong reasons. Often they had to be developed on a shoe string budget or using the philosophy of "make a little, sell a little, make a little more". However imperfectly, customers were well served, product leadership was established, and in key markets, dominance was achieved.
Then senior management changed. The original, fairly well balanced, senior management team was eventually replaced with Technomanagers. When they looked back at the twisting and turning paths left by product development and marketing, they were determined to "bring some order to this craziness". These were "processes out of control", management declared. "They need to be reengineered". So a Strategic Planning Committee was formed. It consisted of fifteen senior managers and support staff from quality improvement, customer service, accounting, marketing, human resources, and planning. Over the next few years, they surveyed, researched, collected data, discussed, analyzed, diagrammed, and planned marketing strategies and new products. They wrote a powerful vision, values, purpose, and strategic planning document that could have been a business school case study.
Each thoughtful new product and marketing campaign took off with a bang... and then slowly fizzled. None were outright failures. But the company's history of ever rising sales success flattened out. Key people started leaving. Passion and energy levels slowly sank. Today the company is struggling to catch up with its changing markets and ever stronger competitors.
The new senior managers at the -- now mediocre -- financial services company proved to be caretaker or maintenance managers. They fell into these all too common strategic planning traps.
The second type of planning is implementation or action planning. It's disciplined, short term (today, any detailed action planning beyond two years is ludicrous) and centered around annual goals monthly or weekly priorities. In his book, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, Henry Mintzberg concludes that the biggest reason strategic planning doesn't work stems from "the planning school's grand fallacy: Because analysis is not synthesis, strategic planning is not strategy formulation... ultimately the term strategic planning has proved to be an oxymoron."
© Copyright 2000 The CLEMMER Group
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