Strategic Planning – Top tool to keep your organization focused and your employees engaged

In my polls done during my training classes, less than 2 percent of working students indicate that they have given input to a strategic planning process at their workplace.  This means that executives are missing a prime opportunity to engage their staff in a meaningful way that adds value many time beyond the time spent in the process.


In 1993, Bain and Company began conducting research to interview and survey thousands of corporate executives across the globe, about management tools and trends. Although the top ten tools varied each year, Strategic planning ranked in the top 4 consistently and was No1, 3 out of 4 years.  See figure and link below:


Formal strategic planning provides a systematic process for:

  • Making decisions about the future,
  • Analyzing the implications of those decisions,
  • Managing work to guide an organization toward its desired outcomes,
  • Measuring the results of the actions and decisions.
  • Engaging all employees to think and act strategically.


Although the CEO is accountable for the organization’s strategy, it is essential that other executive management and key stakeholders are involved in the process; including a cross section of the organization, key customers and suppliers.


Careful SWOT analysis ensures that valid data is incorporated into the process to make the decisions more realistic.  A skilled, neutral facilitator ensures the team remains objective; critically evaluates the organization strengths and weaknesses as well as external threats and opportunities.  Quite often organization management are overly optimistic about their strengths and minimize external threats, doing no objective assessment to validate their opinions.  The results could be a motivating exercise for the duration of the session but quite inadequate in identifying issues, challenges and gaps to be overcome for breakthrough performances.


The strategic planning exercise is not meant to be a “feel good” session that yields incremental changes.  It should be a powerful catalyst that energizes the entire organization and provide meaningful challenges that the team will coalesce around and aggressively pursue until they meet the desired objectives.


Several misconceptions prevent organizations from utilizing this valuable tool to improve their results.

Misconceptions Responses
“Change is too rapid.  We can’t keep up.” The strategic planning process provides the organization with SMART goals, a better opportunity to monitor how well they are being achieved and identifies where intervention is needed to get on track.
“The CEO knows where he is heading.” The CEO cannot do it alone.  A manager who gives input to the strategy is more likely to embrace the goals and is more motivated to achieve them. 
“We have done this before.  It is well documented.” The process is an active one, requiring frequent reviews of performance indicators, trend analyses and environmental scanning with in-depth revision every 3 years


Those who diligently engage in strategic planning cite many significant benefits to the organization;

  • Being purposeful about the future instead of reacting,
  • Aligning the various department activities so that they all contribute to the overall goals,
  • Improved effectiveness,
  • Improving the stability and longevity of the organization,
  • Increased profitability and market share,
  • More empowered employees who think strategically,
  • Improved job satisfaction.


The global trend of leading companies identified in Bain’s research for over 20 years are valuable lessons learned.  These best practices should be implemented in our organizations as we seek to improve competiveness.


Carol Webster, CEO, O-Squared Consulting.

O-Squared Consulting implements international best practices in operations processes and human resources development to optimize operations.

Contact: Tel: 592-6972656, Email:

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