What Strategic Planning Is Not! (with thanks to the Pakistan Institute of Management)
Strategic planning is about fundamental decisions and actions, but it does not attempt to make future decisions (Steiner, 1979). Strategic planning involves anticipating the future environment, but the decisions are made in the present. This means that over time, the organization must stay abreast of changes in order to make the best decisions it can at any given point – it must manage, as well as plan, strategically. Strategic planning has also been described as a tool – but it is not a substitute for the exercise of judgment by leadership. Ultimately, the leaders of any enterprise need to sit back and ask, and answer, “What are the most important issues to respond to?” and “How shall we respond?” Just as the hammer does not create the bookshelf, so the data analysis and decision-making tools of strategic planning do not make the organization work – they can only support the intuition, reasoning skills, and judgment that people bring to their organization. Finally, strategic planning, though described as disciplined, does not typically flow smoothly from one step to the next. It is a creative process, and the fresh insight arrived at today might very well alter the decision made yesterday. Inevitably the process moves forward and back several times before arriving at the final set of decisions. Therefore, no one should be surprised if the process feels less like a comfortable trip on a commuter train, but rather like a ride on a roller coaster. But even roller coaster cars arrive at their destination, as long as they stay on track!