Blog

Dec 9 2014

Strategic Thinking, Not Just Strategic Planning

by Stephanie Olexa, Strategic Business Advisor with DVFBC, PhD,  MBA

I recently spoke at a professional conference, the second speaker of the morning, my favorite place in a line up. The audience was still on a glazed-donut high and I stood with confidence, my topic, “Strategic Thinking, Not Just Strategic Planning” in bold letters on the screen behind me. However, I quickly noticed eyes glazing over or looking at the schedule to see who was next. My confidence plummeted like the Snoopy balloon at the end of the Macy’s parade.

Instead of jumping in, I asked the audience why they were not as excited about the topic as I was. Uncomfortable silence! Finally one brave man raised his hand and said, “Strategic plans are the binders that gather the most dust on the shelf.” Another added, “Strategic plans are for the board. We can’t plan on what revenue we’ll get in, so they are meaningless to the organization.” When a person way in the back added, “As soon as the ink is dry, something changes and the plan is out the window”, there was a murmur of agreement. Tough audience!

I smiled and said, “OK, you win. Let’s not talk about strategic planning. Instead help me with a request I got from my best friend.” I told them that my best friend’s daughter, Amy, is a senior in high school. She has her heart set on becoming a physician’s assistant and I’m scheduled to help her figure out how to realize her dream. I peppered the audience with questions and they enthusiastically joined in the conversation.
• What does a physician’s assistant really do?
• What are the requirements?
• How should she choose a college?
• What if she doesn’t get into her first or second choice college?
• What if she decides she doesn’t like the PA program?
• What post-BS degree training would be best?
• And so on…

After several minutes, I stopped and let the silence hang in the room before speaking. “Thank you. You just did the strategic thinking to develop a strategic plan for Amy. What would your organization look like if you did the same thing with your team?” There were smiles and a few giggles.

The misconception of strategic planning is that it’s a document that describes what an organization will do in the next few years, a set of marching orders.

The reality is that a good strategic plan should describe:
• where the organization is today
• where the team envisions it to be in the future
• options to get there

Through the planning process, the organization sets parameters around go/no go decisions that allow the team to make rapid course corrections along the way. Think of it as the internet-based, real-time GPS system for the future of your business.

By the end of our session, I explained Business Model Canvas and Design Thinking principles to get a clear picture of where an organization is today. Audience members left with three easy steps to a dynamic Strategic Plan which creates a clear vision and roadmap of options, a plan which won’t collect dust on the shelf!

And, yes, I did get a round of applause at the end!

If you would like to learn more about our Strategic Thinking process which includes Business Model Canvas and Design Thinking principles, please contact Sally Derstine at 215.723.8413.

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