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The Elusive Strategy

At the beginning of a project, I ask to see my client’s current strategic growth plan. I have only received three types of plans:

1) The Situation Analysis—This “strategic” document provides a detailed and thorough investigation of the situation, but it doesn’t actually specify any action. So, the question is: what do we do now? This is a useless document. These plans wind up in a file cabinet never to be seen again.

2) The Sales Projection—This “strategic” document is filled with specific growth estimates often down to the SKU, but like the Situation Analysis, it doesn’t outline the activities that will produce the projected growth. Ironically, I have seen detailed descriptions of the many things that might prevent these projections from coming to fruition. Excuses are baked into the plan, but not the actual strategies.

This type of plan is also known as the wishful thinking plan. These plans are often reviewed on a regular basis with the strategies retroactively added once the results are in. Hindsight is a perfect 20/20!

3) The blank stare—In other words, we don’t have one. This is the most common response. Some people push back with, “we don’t need a strategic growth plan; we know what we’re doing.” To that I reply, “let’s go ask five random employees how their work supports your company’s growth objective.” I haven’t had any takers on that request, but my own primary research confirms employee answers are typically what you would expect—all over the board. These poor people are often confused and desperate for direction.

The primary reason to develop a strategic document (and share it with your team!) is to ensure efforts are focused on achieving your stated objectives. Without alignment, there is no telling which direction your employees are headed.

According to Lewis Carroll, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.


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