One of the services we provide at RMS is strategic planning facilitation. We assist organizations that are engaged in the challenging but necessary undertaking of plotting their strategic course for the next several years.
Having been through the process a number of times with both clients and internally with RMS, one thing I’ve learned about strategic planning is that although the various formalized components such as planning meetings, retreats, SWOT analyses, background research, etc. are usually viewed as parts of a distinct, finite activity, the actual process of formulating, implementing and revising strategies never truly ends.
That last paragraph probably elicited some groans from readers who have attended half- or full-day working retreats where goals were hammered out around a conference table, or who have spent hours in a group session wordsmithing and analyzing the details of a vision or mission statement. But those activities, while necessary, are only the beginning of the process. People often think (and I have been guilty of this myself in the past) of strategic planning as a chore, an intrusion, or a necessary evil that has to be done, and that it’s outside the realm of an organization’s day-to-day work. In truth, it is nothing less than the process of determining what an organization’s day-to-day work ought to be, going forward. And it’s really the course of that day-to-day work, which over time, determines if the organization’s strategic goals will be met.
That’s why I say strategic planning never stops. Once the plan is developed, it’s necessary to keep the goals in mind every day. Every activity the organization undertakes should be a tactic that will help implement a strategy, which will in turn help accomplish a goal. Along the way, the strategies should constantly be monitored to see if they are working and if they are being implemented properly. Progress has to be measured. And eventually, after two or three years, the goals should be revisited as part of the next formal strategic planning process. But again, as important as those formal strategic planning activities are, it’s the day-to-day implementation in between them that is most important.