Failure to Launch: Evaluating Your Strategic Planning Process

Strategic planning and budgeting season is almost upon us. Defining the strategy and approach to market to help your company outperform the industry is the most important thing you can do as a leader. However, there is a very high failure rate of actually achieving the goals stated in these plans. Are you like the majority of companies struggling to execute, or are you ensuring your organization sees your critical initiatives through to ensure strong business results? Where ever you stand, this article can help you understand the importance of sticking to your strategy for sustainable success.

It Starts with the Plan

Before you can get on a path to positive results, you need to finalize your plan. After months of meetings, discussions and way too many PowerPoint revisions, the time has come — your strategic plan is ready to launch. You’ve chosen your organization’s top three initiatives that need to be completed to achieve the plan. Your teams and resources are prepared to ideate each initiative and come up with the go-forward investment and strategy for execution. You’ve even come up with KPIs and ways of measuring its success.

Finally, your team and agency partners develop a unique program to leverage the initiative out in the market and you present the plan at the national sales meeting.

Check. Check. Check. Check. You’ve checked off all the steps (or so you think).

Launch and Leave

You are done! You take a deep breath. You’ve finally launched the initiative out to the market. Time for the next thing on your list, right?

Unfortunately, this is where most companies stop. I refer to it as “launch and leave” — launching a critically important project and then abandoning it for the next thing on your company’s check list.

In The Balanced Scorecard, authors David Norton and Robert Kaplan note that 90% of organizations fail to successfully execute their strategies. The CEOs they interviewed stated that lack of execution is the single largest reason their business goals aren’t met. All the work, resources and time companies pour into strategic planning will not impact the bottom line unless it gets executed. Plain and simple.

Launch, Learn and Love

To ensure tangible results from their strategic plan, companies need to “launch, learn and love.” New initiatives and plans need to be nurtured, measured and optimized. Schedule frequent meetings to determine what’s working and what needs to be eliminated or enhanced along the way. Take every opportunity as a chance to learn from the wins and losses. Whether it’s joint sales team calls, operation updates or ongoing VOC, if it’s truly a critical initiative, treat it like one. Embed your organizational focus into executing the plan at all levels.

Don’t abandon the plan for tactical items like distributor golf outings, trade shows in non-important sectors or updating marketing materials for products that turn the lowest profit. The hardest thing to do during strategic planning is deciding what not to do versus what to do.

I truly believe you make more money saying no to things than you do to saying yes. Make sure you and your team are saying no to non-critical items and showing the love to that one initiative your organization has defined as critical to your company’s success.

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