Four Ways to Turn Strategic Planning into Strategic Doing

Not all planning leads to doing that makes a difference. There are ways to do strategic planning that does not naturally become strategic doing.

We still hear organizational leaders report that they “have a strategic plan” and now “have to figure out how to put it into action.” It is because organizations are still doing strategic planning instead of strategic doing that we see worldwide failure in over 80% of strategic plans, even though they’re complete with approved missions, visions, values, SWOTs, goals, objectives, forecasts and budgets.

Strategic planning fails to turn into strategic doing when it has the character of assumption-based discussion, defensiveness and autocratic dictates.

In assumption-based discussion, we argue in circles from untested, speculative assumptions. Discussions are more about debating the right answers than working from the right questions. This keeps the plan unrealistic and resisted.

In defensiveness, we set goals low enough to protect us from perceived risk or failure. This maintains the status quo in a culture of lip service to change. We basically spin new variations on the same, expecting it will protect us from threats and save us from our weaknesses. It is strategic hoping.

In autocratic dictates, we irrationally expect people to genuinely support a sense of the future what they were not engaged in crafting. In the rollout of top-down strategic plans, people go directly to work on crafting constraint-based excuses to resist what they didn’t help create.

The opposite is agile, real time planning that supports strategic doing. Four practices characterize the power of strategic doing.

We work from questions

In strategic doing, we realize the good we seek one question at a time. Agile planning is the process of navigating uncertainties. Translating unknowns into new questions keeps the process continuously realistic and empowering. Working from questions gives everyone a place at the table and energizes velocity.

We engage talents

With the process orchestrated by a core group, everyone in the organization is invited to contribute their talents to shaping the future of the organization. People enthusiastically and genuinely engage in strategic doing because people support what they help create. The process creates natural and sustainable alignment.

We progress in iterations

In iterations of research and experimenting from new questions and approaches, we make continuous progress toward the future we most want to see possible. Always creating and working on the most optimal opportunities, every strategic thing we do in the present aligns with the difference we want to make in our world into the long view of the future.

We refresh every 2 quarters

Change is the strategic constant. Every 2 quarters, we do all kinds of new learning through research, decision making, experimenting and implementing successful strategies. Most of our unknowns are different every 2 quarters, as is our sense of the future we want to create. Our world changes unpredictably as much as we change it. That’s why it’s imperative that we refresh the process every 2 quarters so we stay ¬†continuously resilient and relevant.

Strategic doing is possible because every organization has what it takes. The transition from strategic planning to strategic doing is in taking a fresh approach to creating the future we want to see.


About Jack

In my late twenties I had the good fortune to have mentors who were practice leaders in what was then called the Human Potentials Movement. They inspired me to help organizations and communities realize their potential in ways they never imagined. It became clear this was the core gift that would shape the past 40 years.

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