What Strategic Planning is not?

Clearly, strategic planning is no panacea. Strategic planning is simply a set of concepts, procedures, and tools designed to help leaders, managers, and planners think and act strategically. Used in wise and skillful ways by a “coalition of the willing,” strategic planning can help organizations focus on producing effective decisions and actions that further the organization’s mission, meet in mandates, and satisfy key stakeholders. But strategic planning is not a substitute for strategic thinking and acting. Only caring and committed people can do that. And when used thoughtlessly, strategic planning can actually drive out precisely the kind of strategic thought and action it is supposed to promote.

Furthermore, strategic planning is not a substitute for leadership. There is simply no substitute for leadership when it comes to using strategic planning to enhance organizational performance. At least some key decision makers and process champions must be committed to the strategic planning process, or any attempts to use it are bound to fail.

In addition, strategic planning is not synonymous with creating an organizational strategy. Organizational strategies have numerous sources, both planned and unplanned. Strategic planning is likely to result in statement of organizational intentions, but what is realized in practice will be some combination of what is intended and what emerges along the way. Strategic planning can help organizations develop and implement effective strategies, but they should also remain open to unforeseen opportunities. Too much attention to strategic planning and excessive reverence for strategic plans can build organizations to other unplanned and unexpected—yet incredibly useful—sources of information, insight, and action.

The discipline necessary for strategic planning can be of two sorts. The first harkens back to Latin root of the word “discipline,” emphasizing instruction, training, education, and learning. The second embodies later interpretations of the word, emphasizing order, control, and punishment. Emphasis should be placed on education and learning, although there clearly are occasions when imposing order, taking control, and enforcing appropriate sanctions are appropriate. Certainly, key leaders, managers, and planners can best use strategic planning as an educational and learning tool, to help them figure out what is really important and what should be done about it. Sometimes this means following a particular sequence of steps and preparing formal strategic plans, but not necessarily. The ultimate goal of strategic planning should not be a rigid adherence to a particular process or an instance on the production of plans. Instead, strategic planning should promote wise strategic thought and action on behalf of an organization and its key stakeholders. What steps to follow, in what sequence, and whether or not to prepare formal plans are subsidiary concerns.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Use and Misuses of Authority

Most managers believe they must have authority to accomplish their jobs. They believe it is their superior’s responsibility to see that they have adequate authority in the areas for which they are held responsible and accountable. But a manager who either misuses or oversas his authority to get his subordinates to carry out their tasks may be inviting trouble. This is why it is important for the manager to understand the various sources of authority and power and the differences among them.

 Most people who have worked in the business world have seen a situation in which subordinates have “fired” their boss. By dragging their feet on assignments by cauing the organizations to do a relatively poor job, and by directing criticisms to appropriate ears, a unified group of subordinates can cause such trouble that their boss’s superiors may question his ability to handle his work group. Under these conditions the subordinates may sometimes be shown the door; but occasionally the boss is fired. That this can and does happen illustrates that managers are dependent, in part, on their work groups, just as their work groups are dependent, in part, on the managers. Although the manager has formal sanctions to back up his authority, the work group has informal sources of power it can utilize. The manager who relies only on his formal authority to direct the efforts of others may, therefore, not achieve the best results. It is desirable that he also be a leader; in short, he should be able to influence his subordinates as well as give them orders.

 Managers are often “caught in the middle”between the values, orders, and expectations of their superiors and the values, needs, and expectations of their subordinates. The manager usually needs to retain the support of both his superior and his subordinates, and the dilemma he feels when there is conflict between the two can create intensely uncomfortable feelings. The pressure is  compounded when the values and expectations of his peers are also involved, as they frequently are. Different managers resolve these internal dissonances in a variety of ways. Some ignore, or pay less attention to, either the subordinates or the superior, usually the former. Others try to find compromises that satisfy both, at least enough to avoid undue problems. But however thay handle them, most managers experience the discomfort of man-in-the-middle problems.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight