Adapting to the New Strategic Planning: Libraries Must Be Able to Act Quickly and Stay Focused So They Can Take Advantage of Opportunities That Contribute to Organizational Success

By Green, Holly G. | Information Outlook, January-February 2013 | Go to article overview

Adapting to the New Strategic Planning: Libraries Must Be Able to Act Quickly and Stay Focused So They Can Take Advantage of Opportunities That Contribute to Organizational Success


Green, Holly G., Information Outlook


Back when the world moved a lot slower and markets didn't change overnight, the traditional strategic planning model served the corporate world quite well. It got business leaders to rise above the day-to-day minutiae of running the business and focus on the big picture. And it gave everyone a sense of direction and purpose, at least for a little while.

But the world has changed dramatically since strategic planning was first introduced. We still need to plan--in fact, planning is probably more important than ever. What needs to change is how we plan, how we go about implementing our plans, and how we think about the planning process in general.

Traditional strategic planning involves looking ahead three to five years, predicting where the company needs to go, and setting a firm course in that direction. Once the plan has been crafted, it typically gets rolled out with great fanfare, and for about one-tenth of a second everyone in the organization is actually working from the same page. But then a curious thing happens--management typically puts the plan high up on the shelf and leaves it the They stop communicating with employees about the strategies and goals included in the plan and assume that the plan will unfold exactly as written.

Instead of monitoring the plan on a regular basis, management sits back and waits for it to produce the expected results. When it starts to get off track, as every plan does, management typically adopts a wait-and-see attitude, preferring to ride out any bumps in the plan rather than make any "unnecessary" adjustments. The end result is a business that struggles to achieve its goals and employees who have no clue where the organization is headed or how it will get there.

Today's business world has become too complex and moves far too quickly to waste time and resources crafting rigid strategic plans that become obsolete before they get halfway through their time frame. Clearly, a new planning model and mindset are needed to enable companies to respond quickly to changes in dynamic, unstable markets while remaining focused on the goal.

Updating the Model

What does the new strategic planning model look like?

For starters, it's a lot more fluid and flexible. You still set a target destination, but one that doesn't look nearly as far into the future. And you still set intermediate goals and action steps to help you reach your destination. But instead of putting the plan up on the shelf to gather dust, the focus shifts to monitoring and measuring the plan on a regular basis and making adjustments in response to changing market conditions.

Instead of planning three to five years out, companies now look 12 to 18 months ahead. They set new targets based not only on past performance but on the opportunities available in the market, taking into account what achieving excellence in a new and constantly evolving game looks like. They still set a firm destination, but now they build plenty of flexibility into how they will get there and enable those closest to the work to make day-to-day decisions about reaching the destination.

Most importantly, instead of putting the plan on the shelf to collect dust, companies now make implementing the plan a top priority. They review it on a regular basis and make adjustments as necessary. In the process, they continuously address "here is why we will still win" even when markets and conditions shift or plans unfold differently t expected.

Strategic Agility: The New Edge

A primary goal of the new strategic planning model is the development of strategic agility--the ability of companies to move fast, stay focused, and remain flexible in rapidly changing markets. This goal requires the entire organization, not just senior management, to become fluent in strategic thinking.

Whereas strategic planning is a one-time event that has a beginning and an end, strategic thinking is a process that never ends. …

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