Strategic planning and acting: What works and what does not

Photo credit to Impact Consulting

Since the wake of 1960, strategic planning has remained prominent in corporations. The quest has been to enhance the competitiveness of each business unit in the growing economies. Frederick Taylor developed a philosophy in 1909 based on the belief that making people work as hard as they could was not as efficient as optimizing the way the work was done. In his published work “The Principles of Scientific Management” he proposes that by optimizing and simplifying jobs, productivity would increase. As a result, many entities separated the thought process from the execution process, having different teams focusing on each. Planning systems were expected to produce the best strategies and systematic methodologies for carrying out those strategies so that the implementers, and managers, could not err or deviate. This is because ideally, strategic planning is the process of setting goals and creating a blueprint for an organization’s future. However, years after the birth of strategic planning we now know, planning has not exactly always worked out that way.

So, what often goes wrong?

  1. Planning and not following through.
    Strategic plans have to be actively championed and revised in execution. Some organizations either because of limited capacity or just plain negligence do not put the plans to work. As a result, the desired change is never achieved.
  2. External factors- Other firms follow through with their strategic plans with unwavering commitment but are later on blind-sighted by external factors. Take for instance the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the total disruption of economies across the world. It is difficult to predict or control external factors but they definitely interfere with plans.
  3. Organizational culture
    It has been said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and it is repeated over and over again in organizations. A culture that insists on performance monitoring, measurement, and review and where the leaders support their teams towards the achievement of strategic goals will make strategic plans useful. On the other hand, a culture that is not performance-oriented, team members are oriented toward self-centered interests, functions and departments are siloed rather than complementary in their work and leaders ambush their teams during reviews to settle scores is counter-strategic planning and acting.
  4. Unrealistic goals
    Strategic plans must be achievable. They should be drawn from the data collected, the market, available resources, and all relevant factors, thus being realistic and attainable.
  5. Ignorance of marketplace realities
    Even while having a strategic plan for your enterprise, when a problem lands into the market, it is unwise to not plan for it. Even before it affects your business, create a strategy to combat it.
  6. Inflexibility to change
    Growth is a demand for change. Many corporations have had their strategic plans failing because of rigidity. Both in the public and private sectors, the systems have remained unbendable leaving no room for growth in approach or results.


Truth be told, strategic planning cannot be built or accomplished in rigidity. It must be adaptive in both its nature and its execution. It is critical that frequent reviews and adjustments are allowed as different factors arise. Monitoring must be done to determine whether the organization is achieving the goals as contemplated but even more importantly whether the goals as initially envisaged are still relevant given the dynamism of the operating context. A constant eye and mind at adjusting while acting is what ultimately defines successful implementation of strategic plans or lack of thereof.