[Editor's Note: Over the years, our firm, The Mead Consulting Group, has been asked to evaluate or "validate" a company's strategic plan and its planning process. What we have found is that the processes for companies in the lower middle market vary widely and some are counterproductive. There are some common issues that are listed in this article. Do you recognize any of them? - dpm]
Too many strategies and initiatives
Often we see plans that have numerous strategies and initiatives. In one $60M revenue company, there were 17 major initiatives and strategies - so many that all of them couldn't be listed on an 11x14 sheet. When we asked the senior managers to list the top 3 priorities, we got a different answer from each of the managers. An organization can't tackle that many priorities at once. Not surprisingly, this organization had a history of not completing projects.
Shiny Rocks - moving quickly from one idea to another
Sometimes the CEO has one great idea after another and overwhelms the team by abandoning one strategy or initiative to move to another. In these companies, strategies are never fully executed. There becomes a tendency for employees to just duck their heads down and wait for the current "new project" to blow over. There is little commitment to the "strategy du jour." These companies have flurries of activity, yet few accomplishments.
No "what we are not going to do now" list
As important to narrow the focus of a company's strategic priorities, it is important to develop of list of things that the organization won't do. This is the most difficult task for companies. No one wants to move worthy projects or initiatives to this list. However, if an organization is to accomplish the top priorities, the others must be tabled - at least for the current cycle.
No agreement on the priorities
In some organizations, the plans are developed but there is no agreement among key functions and managers about the priorities. These organizations fail to mobilize to necessary resources to execute well.
Developing strategies that the organization cannot execute well
Many organizations develop strategies that either the market won't accept, or that the company does not have - nor can get - the resources or talent required to execute. I tell a story (somewhat tongue in cheek) about a mythical meeting at Kmart where some manager recommends a strategy to emulate the Nordstrom model. No matter how much money is spent, there is no way the market will accept Kmart adopting a Nordstrom model.
The Power of three.
We believe that for lower middle market companies, there should be no more than three major strategies undertaken in a planning cycle. We find that when companies execute two of these strategies well, they will be very successful.
The Mead Consulting Group has been helping clients develop and execute Strategic Growth& Execution plans for many years. Check out our website for descriptions of some client success stories.