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2012: Planning or Strategy?

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Sun, Nov 20, 2011

Last week I spent two days with a client planning 2012.  As we worked to identify their top priorities I urged them to include strategy as one of their priorities.  The company is growing better than 15% the past two years, however this pace is down from three years ago when they grew better than 50%.  As I pressed them to consider strategy a question arose, “I thought we were doing strategy by completing the One Page Strategic Plan.  Isn’t that what strategy is? ”

If you believe you’re working on strategy by completing the One Page Strategic Plan, you may be right and wrong.  Here’s why.  describe the imageCertain elements of the One Page Strategic Plan are Strategy while others are simply Planning. In fact your Annual Plan through your quarterly plans are part of your Execution Process. Strategy on your One Page Plan includes Core Values, Core Purpose (including your actions), Core Competencies, Your 3-5 Year Plan (including Key Thrusts & Capabilities), Brand Promise, X-Factor, BHAG, SWOT, and Sandbox. If you’ve completed these to the extent they provide you with a defining competitive advantage and differentiation in the marketplace, then congratulations!  You’ve achieved success in developing your strategy.  Understand there’s still room to improve by defining your Seven Strata of Strategy which Verne’s describes here.

Want to understand the difference between Strategy and Planning? It’s provided in a book I’ve written about several times entitled Strategic Learning.  To learn more about Strategic Learning visit these blogs:

Execution or Bad Choices – Why Do Businesses Fail

Strategic Learning - Five Killer Competencies

Strategic Discipline’s Approach to Five Killer Competencies

The Pace of Change Requires Strategic Discipline

To understand how Strategy differs from Planning listen to what Strategic Learning author Willie Pietersen says:

“We must change our approach from “strategy as planning” to “strategy as learning.”

Strategic Learning is a learning-based process for creating and implementing breakthrough strategies. The leadership challenge is to repeat it over and over, so that an organization continuously learns from its own actions and from scanning the environment, and then modifies its strategies accordingly. Strategic Learning combines strategy, learning, and leadership in one unified process.”

Pietersen goes on to note that both strategy and planning are vital, but one is not a substitute for the other.

 The golden rule is: strategy first, and planning afterwards.

What gave birth to strategy was the need to respond to two inescapable realities: the fact that we have limited resources, and the inevitability of competition.

Strategy is about doing the right things. It involves making the most intelligent choices; it clarifies where an organization will compete and how it will win the competition for value creation; and it creates an intense focus on the few things that matter most.

Military analyst Antoine Jomini writes that strategy is the concentration of mass upon decisive points. It’s the same in business.

The ultimate purpose of a strategy is to create clarity of focus. This, in turn, is the essential platform for leadership effectiveness.

Planning, on the other hand, concerns doing things right. It provides orderliness, discipline, and logistical rigor; its purpose is not to produce breakthrough thinking, but predictability; and it generates forecasts, blueprints, and budgets.

The difference between strategy and planning is to think about running a railroad company: Strategy defines where you will lay the railroad tracks; planning ensures that the trains run on time.

How are you doing on your strategy?  Do you have a strategy or do you have a plan?  Which do you feel now is more important?  If you’re not sure I suggest you read my blog on Execution or Bad Choices – Why Do Businesses Fail


Topics: planning, One Page Strategic Plan, priorities, strategy

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

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