Make Plans but Don't Forget to Do
Crawford, Purdy, Canadian Speeches
Corporate managers like to focus on creating strategic plans while public servants are absorbed in formulating public policy. But too often in both sectors, not enough attention is paid to execution. Award acceptance speech at the Public Policy Forum 16th annual testimonial dinner, Toronto, April 10, 2003.
In a way the process of formulating public policy and enacting it into laws, rules, regulations, etc. is somewhat similar to, at least to a limited extent, the development of strategy in the private sector.
The development of strategy is important but it is an ongoing process and a board of directors has a major role to play in the process. There is, however, very rarely a document that one can point to and say "this is our strategic plan." Notwithstanding this, the TSX Guidelines on corporate governance and various writers constantly refer to the "strategic plan."
Harrison and Wallace McCain built a great international business based upon, initially, the potato in New Brunswick. They did not have a written vision or strategic plan -- they knew where they wanted to go and they went about getting there with drive and passion.
One strategist has suggested that a fundamental role of the board relates to strategy but that boards should not normally get involved in operating plans. Other strategists suggest that strategy discussions be granted the highest priority by having a general strategy discussion at the start of every board meeting followed by an in depth look at one important strategic issue.
Why is it that so much emphasis is placed on strategic planning and so little emphasis is placed on operations, particularly at business schools. I suspect for at least two reasons:
First, the development of strategy can be very interesting. Secondly, business schools and strategic consultants work on strategy not on the discipline of getting things done. In fairness, I should add that a good consultant will make sure strategy is such that it can be reasonably implemented and will also help develop a process for implementation.
As one European general once said -- battle plans are worked on for months and, once in the battle, plans quickly become irrelevant and those with the passion and desire to win usually do so. Or, as we used to say about Canada Trust, a prime component of its strategy is "hustle. …