You're ready to start proactively planning for your organization's success. There are, of course, many different areas in which to plan: accounting, IT, marketing, advertising, etc. For the sake of argument let us assume we are addressing general business direction and market planning -- the five components covered in the previous post of "Moving Beyond 'Plan' as a Four-Letter Word."
In this earlier post we cover why strategic planning can be such a challenge but how the most successful organizations and leaders recognize feeling "stuck" and get ready to move past it. Once ready to commit to planning as a serious endeavor, at the most fundamental level you have two options: do it on your own, or work with an outside agent.
Let's take a closer look at what each of these approaches means to your organization as well as their pros and cons:
In-House: Plan On Your Own
There's nothing quite like starting right here, right now to get going. Rallying the troops 'round a table and talking about where you want to take the business is an excellent first step. The key thing to keep in mind is fostering real, passionate commitment among key stakeholders. If the leadership team isn't serious about achieving strategic planning goals in a particular timeframe, it runs the risk of bringing to life the humorous satire of Despair.com's view of planning.
So let's take a look at what we can expect when bringing strategic business planning in-house...
- No additional financial investment; time only
- Can begin ASAP
- Great outlet and motivation for "idea people" on the team
- An opportunity to find and cultivate the "big thinkers" in the group
- Pre-existing deep knowledge of organization and what is/is not possible
- May be limited by existing traditions and paradigms
- Innovation may suffer in catering to existing hierarchy and roles/titles
- Existing group dynamics and politics may skew planning in a specific direction or result in stalemates
- In-house team likely not subject experts in planning methodologies and frameworks...may experience inefficiency
Leaders can tell when their organization has hit a point of stagnation. Smart leaders proactively address it. Exceptional leaders are willing to look at solutions from all angles, and recognize that sometimes the best way to maximize your current talent pool is by injecting new life into it from time to time. If your organization has never worked with an outside agent for strategic business planning, here is a general idea of what you can expect...
- An outside perspective brings the power to see into organizational blind spots
- Ability to mediate politics and hierarchy to level the playing field of contribution
- Unbiased research brings new market insights into the planning process
- Subject matter expertise in strategic planning as a discipline
- Only invest when needed...can work with the same outside party over a long period of time with the financial efficiency of increasing or decreasing engagement as needed
- Additional financial investment
- Time invested in selecting the right agent or agency
- Initial ramp time to get to know the organization for maximum contribution
Key Deciding Factors
In addition to the pros and cons listed above, the three key factors that will help you make your decision are really very simple, and should come as no surprise:
Not coincidentally, this ties into the reliable business "Rule of Two" relating to "Fast, Cheap, and Good." The rule is simple: you can have any two. If it's fast and cheap, don't expect it to be good. If it's fast and good, don't expect it to be cheap. You get the idea.
So the key question to ask is: what is driving your strategic planning needs? If you are facing a competitive threat (e.g. a competitive product release which may compromise your own market impact), strategic planning may need to happen quickly and you're best off bringing outside help for maximum efficiency. If you are planning proactively and have the luxury of a long lead time and time for course correction, in-house may be the way to go.
Whatever your organization decides, it's a good idea to look at the three key criteria and have a frank discussion about goals as well as the advantages and disadvantages described above. Next week we'll be covering a related and very important topic for bringing these concepts to fruition: "How to Operationalize Strategic Business Planning."
And if you would like to include this article on your blog as a guest post, we'd be honored. Please write to us here: info AT apexinsights DOT com.