Every once in a while, the late great Johnny Carson would don a turban and morph into Carnac, the all-knowing swami. Carnac was so prescient that he could come up with an answer before he even knew what was being asked! (Example: Sis boom bah. Question: What sound does an exploding sheep make?)
I'm often reminded of Carnac when strategic planning is underway. Planning is responding to challenges, changing market conditions, new technologies, etc. But long before the research review, the brainstorming and whiteboarding, crafting and drafting, did the planners ask the really tough questions?
The Feisty Five
There is a direct relationship between the quality of decisions and the integrity of the "deciders." Here are five issues strategic planners should address right off the bat:
- Do we have the right people at the table? Are we in a position to implement the strategies we recommend? If not, how do we get those key "influentials" engaged and supportive of the process and its outcomes?
- What are the facts and what are the prejudices? Whether conscious or not, planners have a vested interest in advancing their personal agendas. Not only is objective research important to understand, but so too are the perspectives that shape its analysis. Without undue chest-beating, these should be on the table for discussion.
- "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". So Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina, but he could easily have replaced "families" with "organizations”. How is our company "unhappy"?--a question that also demands candor, especially discomfiting if the issues center on leadership and personnel.
- Let's not kid ourselves: What are we good at? And, of course, the reverse...
- Remember the maxim attributed to Einstein: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Where is the organization "insane"? What do we always do that doesn't work? What do we never do...for whatever reason? What holds us back? What is the one thing that holds us back that we can change?
Ask a question? Get a question
Like Carnac under his turban, answers are often questions in disguise. The real conjuring trick in strategic planning is to tell them apart.