Strategy or Strategic Plan…they aren’t the same!

The word “STRATEGY” is bantered and thrown around in many of the conversations today among top executives, especially CEOs. But what does it really mean? And are they actually talking about the same thing? I don’t think so…

Years ago when I first started doing “Strategic Planning” as part of my consulting role at Arthur Andersen, it was pretty straight forward and I feel for the most part executives were on the same page when you talked about Strategy. Today the lines have gotten fuzzier and less clear for many – primarily due to the “speed of business” that is happening to virtually every industry. So why the confusion?

There was a great article/post written in Stanford Social Innovation Review, called, “The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy.” I feel they did a good job of discussing the differences and sharing some compelling arguments around why companies should be thinking “Strategy” instead of a “Strategic Plan”. In the article, they had a great summary that helps put this in perspective, “Instead of the old approach of “making a plan and sticking to it,” which led to centralized strategic planning around fixed time horizons, we believe in “setting a direction and testing to it,” treating the whole organization as a team that is experimenting its way to success.”

The essence is that Strategy still rules and in fact may be even more important today than ever before. But what they want to emphasize, and I personally agree with 100%, is the flexibility that is required today and the ability to “adapt” your plan to the rapidly changing market and competitive conditions has never been more important that the world we live in right now. Maybe the name should be changed from “Strategic Plan” to “Adaptability Plan” to further emphasize the need for flexibility.

What do you think? Do you and your leadership team still generate the traditional 3 or 5 year strategic plan? Does it work for you and your organization? Share your thoughts either here or in our LinkedIn CEOtoCEO Discussion Group. We would love to get your thoughts on this very important area of planning.

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