What roadblock is keeping you from using a strategic planning process?
“It takes too much time.”
” We don’t have the resources.”
“We don’t have the money.”
But saying you don’t have the time, money, or resources for strategic planning is like saying you don’t have time for a time management class. That’s exactly why you need to do it! You really can’t afford NOT to. Let’s address the options and risks to see why:
1) Skip The Plan – These are usually the organizations that struggle first in times of recession. There’s little cushion or contingency planning. Cash flow, competition, customer/employee defections or other concerns can overwhelm you. If you’re skilled at planning “in your head” or you’re running a very small business that’s also very simple and routine, you may get by.
2) Do It Yourself – This is better than nothing, saves money up front, and you may do all right. But without a complete, objective analysis, there are two risks. One, you could be too tentative or conservative, slowing your results and success. Two, you could be too aggressive or choose the wrong strategy and do more harm than good. What’s your margin of error for your finances and reputation? Depending on the growth stage of your organization and the economic impact, those risks may be too great. Allowing a professional or an advisory board to review your plan could be a good cost/benefit solution.
3) Hire A Basic Consultant Or Other Cheap, Outside Resource – On a tight budget, it’s tempting to compromise. Ask for references and results. This type of resource could serve as a decent introduction to the strategic planning process for first-timers. However, many strategic planners just aren’t comfortable with customizing an approach based on an organizational assessment. They may not have the experience analyzing the operation and financials or respect the project management aspects of implementation. The result is usually a huge investment of time from lack of proper process and context, and a dust-catching plan that’s full of holes. How much time do you have to spend (waste) on something that won’t be implemented? Be careful.
4) Hire A Strategic Planner – This solves the resource problem and is a great option if you can afford it. A staff planner would really get to know your organization and could help you monitor industry trends, competition, technology, etc. You’d have someone who knows your organization well and is committed to its success. Even if it’s not a full time position, you may achieve success by combining another role with someone who has strategic planning expertise. A downside could be objectivity, so strive to achieve and maintain a neutral perspective with this position.
5) Consider A Professional Consultant To Guide The Process – While the initial cost may feel like a roadblock, a professional should also add much more to your return on investment (ROI). A good plan should pay for itself in both time and money and have a completion time measured in weeks. A poor plan will definitely be an expense and a productivity drain. They can take months or even years to complete. A professional should be able to help you with the organizational assessment and implementation.
Strategic planning should be the backbone for everything else you do and it’s one of your best investments – in time, money, AND resources. It may feel like there are roadblocks. Weigh the options above – and the alternative risks. You can’t afford to miss opportunities regarding your industry, competition, customers, partners and suppliers, cash flow, time, or efficiency. You may need to try a couple of options as your organization evolves. Break through the roadblocks, pick the best option, and begin the journey.