The untapped value of strategic planning

Mar 07, 2021

These three core strategic planning areas have unique opportunities for value depending largely on the culture of your organization.

While there are many organizations, departments, and teams that deliberately conduct strategic planning, the process, format, frequency, and ultimately the results can vary significantly. Although there is no “right” way to conduct strategic planning, there are proven ways to increase effectiveness.

When coupled with implementation, strategic planning is a year-round process. It includes three core areas: preparation, development of goals, and implementation of actions to achieve the goals.

Most strategic planning processes start with some degree of preparation. It can be as simple as gathering basic project, industry, client, employee, and financial information from prior years. The preparation precedes a relatively short period of planning and strategic goal development. The duration ranges from a couple hours to several days and includes discussion and evaluation centered around the development of strategic goals.

Participants may be many or few but should include leaders from your organization’s core business and support units. The discussion and evaluation format could follow a structured “SWOT” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis or a more wide-open “Blue-Sky” format. After the goals are developed, the process continues long-term with the implementation of various actions to accomplish the strategic goals.

Regardless of the strategic planning process used by your organization, does it include untapped value?

The three core strategic planning areas have unique opportunities for value depending largely on the culture of your organization. While the opportunities may be unique, value can be found in areas that are common to all organizations, such as communication. If communication is important to your organization, why not maximize the value during your strategic planning process?

  1. One easily overlooked opportunity is the “ask.” That is, ask those in your organization, beyond the core leaders, for their thoughts as part of your strategic planning preparation. This could be asking for input on focused strategic items of importance, such as, “Do you see more opportunity in expanding into service area ‘A’ or service area ‘B’?” This could also be an open-ended question intended to spark new ideas of interest, such as, “Where do you see opportunities for growth?” Depending on your objectives, questions can be directed toward key strategic areas, such as operations, marketing, human resources, information technology, or ownership/leadership transition. Several web-based platforms are available to help streamline the collection of feedback. These platforms can also allow for anonymous feedback, which may provide more candid comments. However, anonymous feedback limits follow-up questions or clarifications.
  2. In addition to tapping value through internal communication, soliciting external comments from your clients, vendors, and subcontractors can also provide valuable insight. While it may be impractical to solicit feedback from all of them, a subset of key relationships should be considered. You may find some of your best strategic planning input comes from outside your organization. In addition to overall strategic planning process value, internal and external communication creates value by strengthening your organization’s employee, client, subcontractor, and vendor relations.
  3. Another area to tap for value is found in how your strategic planning session is managed. The smaller the size of an organization, the more likely the entire strategic planning process is managed by a founder or another key leader. Management of strategic planning generally becomes more complex with larger organizations. As firms grow and they recognize the lack of internal planning expertise – or leadership merely does not have the time – planners from outside the organization can be retained for various aspects of the strategic plan process. This could include assistance with preparation, moderating the strategic plan meeting, and implementation of actions to achieve the strategic goals. The value of utilizing an outside planner varies. Often, value is found in moderating planning meetings and developing action items for identified strategic goals. Perhaps the largest value an outside planner can provide is time fully dedicated to your firm’s strategic planning. This dedication of time may be difficult to achieve using in-house resources. However, an inside planner may best recognize the importance of various nuances associated with your business and industry and how those nuances relate to your strategic planning.

What other untapped value can your organization recognize during strategic planning?

Brian Rice, PE is a principal and manager of the Environmental Services Group at Fleis & VandenBrink. He can be reached at

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