Strategic planning… a concept that most of us are familiar with and have probably participated in at some point in our careers. And if we haven’t actively participated in the process, we have at least been impacted by the result of it. But is the time and effort invested in creating a strategic plan a good investment? Is the output of the process practical and useful enough to be of value to us in managing our way forward? Will the plan allow us to succeed in competing for new business, and in creating a future that ensures the long-term success of our organization?

Traditionally, many organizations conducted an annual strategic planning process of which the end result was a voluminous document known as the “5 Year Strategic Plan”. This process required a great deal of effort by a great many people, and by the time the document was finalized, it was almost time to start the process all over again.

Although it can be argued that this historical process did create value in the form of enhanced awareness and familiarization with strategic business considerations, at least for those intimately involved in the process, the reality is that the management team was often so exhausted by the end of the process, and the resulting plan was so large and in so much detail, that it was rarely referred to again. In fact, these plans often became little more than an impressive looking book on the office bookshelves of key management personnel.

So just how did such a flawed process become so commonplace throughout the business community? Wasn’t it obvious that we were not creating value through these painful efforts to develop and document strategy?

Well, like in many other business activities, we sometimes get so involved in the details and our resulting efforts to increase the accuracy of our data (or in this case our plan), that we lose sight of the practical nature of what we are trying to accomplish. In other words, we forget to “begin with the end in mind”, and to ensure that the benefits outweigh the investment when developing strategic plans.

How do we avoid this? By taking a Rapid Fire approach to strategic planning.

The Rapid Fire approach to strategic planning focuses on very quickly and concisely understanding the world we live in, and what our ”Big Rock” priorities should be over the next 8 to 12 months. The resulting strategy is one that maximizes our ability to leverage on our strengths and opportunities, while simultaneously mitigating the risks associated with any weaknesses or threats. And to do so in such a manner that can be expressed in a simple document that can be quickly communicated to and understood by all throughout the organization. The process takes far less effort, is far more focused, and is much more useful as a practical “compass” to ensure we stay focused and on track with the execution of our short-term business strategy. It also results in enhanced clarity and focus, increased business agility, and the creation of competitive advantage leading to steady, long-term, business success.