However, any CEO can attest to the difficulty in pulling oneself out from the day to day. Strategic planning requires a keen understanding of both details and the big picture — a vision that cannot be conceived on the fly, if one wants to escape error.
We asked 12 coaches of Forbes Coaches Council to identify a common mistake CEOs make around strategic planning and how to avoid it. Here’s what they said.
1. Treating the Symptom Vs. Primary Tumor
Many CEOs start their strategic planning initiatives from the inside out. By starting internally, you are attempting to solve a “symptom” noticed in-house rather than attacking the “primary tumor,” which of course is a change in external environment. Accurately blueprinting changes in your external environment is the fundamental first step and a foundation for successful strategic planning.
2. Lacking Buy-In
The most successful CEOs with whom I’ve worked realize that they must believe in the strategy in their heart and mind. They must then work to distill the plan to a story that can be embraced by all employees. These CEOs know how to tell the strategy story in an understandable, exciting, hopeful and authentic way that creates excitement and alignment among the employees at all levels.
3. Losing Focus On “Top Priorities”
Most CEOs underestimate the strategic value of “focus.” As Jim Collins notes, it’s easy to over-eat from the buffet of opportunity. To maintain focus on your top priorities: Identify success metrics, set quarterly priorities to drive your top priorities, and have a meeting rhythm that allows for ongoing strategic conversations (i.e., discuss weekly and make adjustments where needed).
4. Not Expanding Your Scope Of Strategic Planning
Tradition is rampant in strategic planning. However with the advancement of technology, global impact at your fingertips, diverse expectations, and lost opportunity costs, it’s critical a CEO sees outside the normal strategic scope. To avoid, consider social media impact, the fact that millennials are all about technology, and opportunities outside your industry that can fit your circumstances.
5. Balancing And Leveraging Is Key
The biggest mistake CEOs make in strategic planning is delivering business solutions that fail at adding value to the customer. Yes, “outside-in” and “customer-centric” have become popular phrases, but words alone are not enough to achieve measurable results. To develop and sustain a profitable strategic plan, you must master balancing your customers’ needs while leveraging your customers’ wants.
6. Making False Assumptions
Assumptions used in planning must be ratified by adequate feedback before being set in stone. Thinking in the C-suite vacuum can trigger false assumptions that doom the plan to fail long before it starts. Get feedback from the team. Improve the potential outcome by vetting assumptions before you rely on them to execute the plan.
7. Not Providing The Resources Needed To Succeed
Underfunded, overworked and lacking resources are the screams heard by leaders of all levels who are scurrying to achieve the organization’s top strategic goals. Strategic priorities are communicated without concern of the day-to-day workflow and resources. CEOs who listen and fund department requests will achieve goals faster, with a larger return on their resource investments.
8. Being Inconsistent
It is easy to get excited about creating a strategic plan, but so often it is not consistently carried out or kept up. Make it a priority to review on a regular basis and adjust as needed. It is not something you should do every couple of years but, rather, at least every quarter (if not more often). In the plan, set up the checkpoints, and as the leader, stick to them.
9. Forgetting The Golden Planning Rule
Business owners get too focused on what they want and where they want to go.The biggest thing missed in strategic planning is: “How do I help the people in my company get where they want to go?” It’s the golden rule; if you help enough people get to where they want to go, they will help you get to where you want to go. Swap jobs to learn new skills, course scholarships and recognition programs.
10. Setting Ambitious Goals In Too Short Of A Time Frame
CEOs are highly motivated visionaries with big goals and big-picture visions for their companies. Creating a step-by-step plan, measurable objectives, integrating it into the culture, current workflow or budget, implementing assessments or corrections if necessary, takes time. The strategic planning should create momentum, but if the timeline is too aggressive it would make the goals unfeasible.
11. Failing To Communicate
One common mistake CEOs make is assuming employees can read their mind. Failure to communicate clearly, concisely and regularly about the strategic plan results in low performance and missed objectives. To avoid this common pitfall, make sure your strategic plan is clear concise and measurable. Then, overcommunicate it by connecting it to key performance indicators.
12. Lacking Alignment To A Vision
When planning a strategy, CEOs underestimate the importance of alignment. When the leadership team is aligned to a clear vision, they can more effectively plan a strategy to make it reality. Without the vision, strategic planning can lead to ineffective strategies and wasted time. When it’s time to implement, it’s critical to create alignment in the rest of the organization to make it successful.