Busy Planning Strategy Without Thinking Strategically

by Jay Deragon on 09/06/2012

“When we blindly adopt a process, a planning system, the organizational dogma,        we become automatons.We cease to think and grow.”

Too often, thinking strategically gets confused with strategic planning.

Strategic Planning is, by definition, a process with a Point A and a Point Z, and simply a number of steps and tools from point to point — it’s a linear process.

Strategic thinking, by contrast, focuses on finding and developing unique opportunities to create value by enabling a provocative and creative dialogue among people who can affect a company’s direction. It is the input to strategic planning—good strategic thinking uncovers potential opportunities for creating value and challenges assumptions about a company’s value proposition, so that when the plan is created, it targets these opportunities. Planning has a beginning and end, thinking never stops.

Henry Mintzberg wrties:  While certainly not dead, strategic planning has long since fallen from its pedestal. But even now, few people fully understand the reason: strategic planning is not strategic thinking. Indeed, strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking, causing managers to confuse real vision with the manipulation of numbers. And this confusion lies at the heart of the issue: the most successful strategies are visions, not plans.

Strategic planning, as it has been practiced, has really been strategic programming, the articulation and elaboration of strategies, or visions, that already exist. When companies understand the difference between planning and strategic thinking, they can get back to what the strategy-making process should be: capturing what the manager learns from all sources (both the soft insights from his or her personal experiences and the experiences of others throughout the organization and the hard data from market research and the like) and then synthesizing that learning into a vision of the direction that the business should pursue. via The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning – Harvard Business Review.

People who can think strategically can step outside their normal frame of reference and understand that it’s only one of many possible frames. The strategic thinker has to step back from that and see the landscape in a much broader context.

The important thing about strategic planning is not the process for planning but the thinking that creates the framework of a vision for the future. Then, and only then, can an effective strategic plan be developed.

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