Sunday, August 9, 2020
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The Supplement to Strategic Planning

What? No strategic planning session? No hours upon hours sitting at a boardroom table talking about your SWOT analysis? Well, we’re not suggesting that you forego the coming together of your most critical leaders, but the truth is that strategic planning shouldn’t happen only at the boardroom table.

Instead, according to Eric D. Beinhocker and Sarah Kaplan of “Tired of Strategic Planning?” in the McKinsey Quarterly, strategic planning should happen in real time throughout the year, and it most often does by necessity and in response to real world business challenges and opportunities. That’s because in the fall, when you had your strategic planning meeting, you didn’t know yet about the opportunity to acquire your competitor when it came up for sale in the spring. Or that you’d suddenly be faced with a new product introduction by another competitor that makes your offering seem somewhat obsolete. But what you can do in your strategic planning sessions is prepare yourself to create strategy in a flexible, creative and responsive manner as the need arises.

Some family business leaders come together to craft extensive plans, complete with action items and deadlines, without really discussing what they really should: the business itself and its overall mission or foundational strategy. What is your family business really about? Who is its target market? What is your brand and how do your customers perceive you? What do you believe about your business and what underlying assumptions are behind those beliefs? Once you and your entire team have a solid understanding about the direction the family business should take, your team will be prepared to move forward to create initiatives and flexibly respond to challenges as they present themselves, even with only a few key directives resulting from the planning session.

Furthermore, your family business should encourage initiatives and experimentation that breed more creative thinking and problem solving throughout the year. What matters is that these initiatives and strategic experiments are aligned with the overall strategy and goals of your family business. Otherwise, these creative initiatives can sidetrack an already successful family business. Both management and employees should contribute ideas to develop out-of-the-box strategies that can propel the family business forward.

James F. Hollan, author of “The Perils of Strategic Planning,” reminds us, too, that creativity and informed minds are of no use without the ability to be flexible and move fluidly. Too often, businesses are bogged down by approval processes and procedures that inhibit the very strategy upon which we are trying to act. Your team must be able to act responsively and swiftly in order to put in motion an effective and strategic initiative.

With these principles in solid practice, your family business will be able to function strategically throughout the year, rather than rely heavily on your once-yearly planning session. By always thinking creatively and with a deep understanding of your family business goals, your team will be able to work more effectively and strategically than if they had spent months at a boardroom table.

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