Four Common Strategic Planning Mistakes

What does the success of your strategic plan look like? No matter the size of your company it is important to look at it's strategic plan to help detect any errors that may be hindering performance levels.By Diane Dempster, Executive Coach ― Although the majority of companies have a strategic plan, there are some common strategic planning mistakes they make that, when adjusted, can move the organization to a higher level of performance and success. Here are four common mistakes organizations make in developing their strategic plan.

    1. Don’t just leave it on the shelf:  Many companies go through the laborious process of creating a plan, only to file it away and not look at it again for a few years, when it’s time to start over again.
      A strong strategic plan is a living document, one that is reviewed, monitored and updated regularly. Implementation of the plan is tracked and measured, ongoing metrics are reviewed to identify how the organization is doing relative to the plan, and adjustments are made as the organization makes larger-scale course corrections. Conversely, organizational decisions are all made in the context of the strategic plan.
    2. Involve the “right” people in the process: Sometimes a subset of the senior leadership team, one individual or an outside consultant (not to be confused with a facilitator) is brought in to create the strategic plan. A limited perspective can lead to a more limited plan.
      Take the time to identify the functions and departments you want represented in developing the plan, as well as the skills needed to develop the plan. For example, use a diverse group of team members with a balance of strategic and tactical skills. You may also need a facilitator to help manage conflicting priorities and ask difficult questions. Another commonly missed step here is deciding how the strategic planning committee will make its decisions. Take time to decide how you are going to decide.
    3. Use a planning format that fits your organizational culture: There is a common misperception that there is a “correct” way to do strategic planning. Realistically, one size does not fit all.
      A savvy organization understands that, while there are key components that make for a more successful plan, they need to design a plan that is at the same level of detail and formality as the rest of the business. The lack of consideration of an organization’s culture is one of the most easily remedied strategic planning mistakes. If you are a “Keep it Simple” organization, an over-the-top 100 page strategic plan is not likely to fit well into your culture. (And is more likely to just sit on the shelf!)
    4. Don’t just create a plan―make it actionable: One of the key reasons that a strategic plan does end up sitting on the shelf, is that while it’s a great plan in theory, there are some barriers to the organization’s ability to execute the plan.
      A solid planning process works through both strategy AND execution. Make sure that the goals and objectives that are set are a realistic stretch for the organization. It can even be helpful to incorporate several different scenarios in order to better plan for a variety of possible future states. Take time to clearly identify who’s doing what and by when, so that it is easier to monitor. Finally, take time to get buy-in at all levels of the organization … including the top! Often, leaders go through the motion of creating a strategic plan in order to say they did it―and check the box. If you or others in the organization aren’t bought in throughout the process, it’s not likely the plan will be very effective.


Being aware of common strategic planning mistakes can help your organization avoid missteps and develop a fully supported, actionable plan that is a blueprint for success. If you need a facilitator to help manage conflict and ask difficult questions during the planning process, we can help.

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