Planning Without Prioritizing Is Killing the Effectiveness of Your Strategy

Can you share your vision for marketing, strategy, communications, risk or any other plan with employees and stakeholders in a succinct way?

I cringe when I see 100-page documents set to be reviewed in 3 – 5 years from organizations with good intentions but old school planning methods. These may have worked “back in the day” but rarely get the job done effectively today.

The problem with the lengthy, wordy, and dry plan document is that no one has the time or attention span to read them. They also have too many objectives that are all ranked with equal importance, so like a second helping plate full of sides at Thanksgiving, they all get picked at but none actually getting finished.

Finally, that new program you were going to create became 100% irrelevant in the time between creating that lofty plan and the next iteration.

Here are the many ways that overplanning like this is costing you time and money.

  1. Someone or more likely lots of someones spent a lot of time coming up with the content.
  2. Those someones had to research the possible solutions, some of those solutions never seeing the light of day.
  3. Several more someones were supposed to read it. *More on this topic below.
  4. It’s 3 or 5 years later and now you have to do it again and read it again or do you scrap the whole thing and start fresh?
  5. If it’s really long, or the people who created it are gone, you might even have to pay someone to make sense of it.

That’s a lot of time and money spent. Taking time to be focused and specific will help you be way more efficient later. Let’s just consider the reading factor alone. I’ve seen organizations create a 100-page strategic document and disseminate that to working people and actually expect them to read it, understand it, and ask questions about it. Then they wonder why no one asks any questions and conveniently assume that means everyone must be getting it.

The truth is, even as recently back as seven years or so this was the norm. Wordy Word docs stuffed with difficult to edit tables and hard to read figures may even be sitting on your shelf somewhere.

So what is the solution? At the basic level (sorry, I know you don’t want to hear this), it’s spreadsheets. When skillfully organized, spreadsheets are our friends. At the next level up dashboards or visual displays that include charts and text. At the highest level, there are any number of software applications created just for the creation and monitoring of the progress of plans.

Finally, prioritizing is key. I suggest if you have 100 ideas, that 95 of them go on an ongoing ideas board and you can re-evaluate them the next time you revisit the plan. Then re-evaluate on shorter time horizons, like quarterly rather than annually or bi-annually rather than three years. When you reach a review point, you’ll be removing completed items and re-evaluating “stuck” items, then you can move the next round of top priorities to the official plan.

In short, make time to plan more often and prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!

Laura Thorne is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is an organizational improvement consultant. She specializes in helping business owners and individuals to be more effective. Laura has over 25 years of professional experience and has had opportunities to work with some of the best and worst performing organizations. Read her posts here.

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