Finally, we have a destination for our next flyfishing adventure – the islands off the coast of Belize on the Caribbean side of Central America. We are going in August for Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish, but it’s time to start planning now. Lots to organize, travel arrangements (need to book early for a chance at frequent flier seats), flies to tie, gear to assemble (I definitely need a new size 9 saltwater reel). The list goes on and on.
The good news about planning, even though it is mentally exhausting, is that if you get going early enough, you have lots of time to think of everything. And planning is also motivating. Every time I read over my list my mind fast-forwards ahead and I find myself daydreaming about the trip – the salt air, the wind, my expert casting (at least in my dreams), stalking and hooking a giant Permit. My wife wonders why I am smiling more frequently now. Must be up to something she says!
Strategic planning is very much the same. The senior team gets together, gathers the information, organizes it, talks about stretch goals and breakthrough ideas, decide how they want the next several years to play out, write down goals, objectives and forecasted revenue and profit projections. Everyone involved is pretty motivated by what the future holds for their business. It’s often a pretty upbeat time.
Then comes reality. In the case of my fly-fishing trips, reality comes in the form of airplane delays, lost luggage, unpredictable weather and storms that make fishing impossible for several days, mosquitoes the size of helicopters, losing my box of hand tied flies over the side of the boat, excruciating sunburn on the one exposed surface I forgot to plaster with sunscreen, chapped hands and cuts on my fingers. You get the point, real life.
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men , Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry] An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promised joy. – Robert Burns
And it’s the same with strategy execution. The plans look great, especially when delivered by the CEO in a stunning powerpoint presentation. And the analytics validate the plan. Everything is a go.
But the marketplace doesn’t stand still while we implement. New competitors emerge, new applications appear, technology advances, regulation changes, customer preferences shift, and a hundred other things assault our plans, if not knocking them off course then at least putting up significant roadblocks to their delivery.
And how do most organizations react? Too often we see executives beginning to blame the plan as not being good enough or complete enough. Then they distance themselves from the strategy, often retreating into functional plans where they believe they have more control. Next we see endless meetings and discussions about how to get “back on track”, budgets are re-aligned, some programs are cut while new ones are initiated. And all the while the initial optimism is slowly replaced with cynicism, blaming, and the strain of being in a constant “fire-fighting” mode. You get the point, real market dynamics.
Strategy execution is very hard work! No wonder it is commonly stated that between half and a third of all strategies fail.
(Check in tomorrow for Part Two . . . The Lighter Side of Planning)
Tight Lines . . .