Simply labeling a plan ‘strategic’ doesn’t make it so - Deepstash

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The essence of strategic planning

The essence of strategic planning

Business leaders know well that in a strategy meeting, the goal is to simply approve or reject a proposal put forward without questioning the plan or floating alternative options that can cause distress.

It shouldn't be this way. The key to strategy development is to weigh strategic alternatives.

  • The goal of the strategy is to make difficult-to reverse decisions on how to win.
  • Planning is how to make those choices happen.

In strategic planning discussions, we often skip over the first step and simply move to the second. However, using certain shifts can help to improve your strategy.


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Frame the strategy as choices

Frame the strategy as choices

Instead of seeing your strategy meeting as a plan-making exercise, reframe the agenda to focus on making choices.

  • One way is to build a strategy decision grid that consists of the key axes of hard-to-reverse choices.
  • Then for each of them, describe three to five possible alternatives.
  • Next, focus on your discussion and analysis of the most difficult choices.


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Calibrate your strategy

Compare your plan to some benchmarks. The chance of a strategy leading to significant performance improvement depends on an analysis of your company's starting endowment, the trends it is riding, and the moves you are planning.

The result is a realistic and concrete future to discuss. You may find your traditional strategic options won't work and may need to consider alternatives that may require making bigger or different moves than you made before.


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Compare alternative plans

Direct the discussion to focus on strategic alternatives that management thinks will be at similar risk and return levels. Then ask the team to consider which big move to make.

You could also show different plan scenarios with varying levels of resources and risk. This can help you make real trade-offs instead of all-or-nothing choices.


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Track assumptions over time

Track assumptions over time

After the plan is developed, the detailed assumptions may be forgotten. Few review the underlying assumptions, such as uptake rates, market growth, and inflation rates.

We shouldn't assume that we know the future. Instead, consider what you can do with the information you have today and build explicit trigger points into the strategy to revisit decisions as you learn.


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Remove bias from decisions

Private-equity firms have found that more than 30% of decisions are different when opposing possibilities are pitted against each other.

Another de-biasing technique is a pre-mortem, where the team assumes a strategy has failed to achieve its intended objective after a set period. Then you brainstorm what caused the failure and how you could've avoided it.


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