I believe that the primary purpose of strategic planning is to provide leaders with the opportunity to collectively determine the future direction of their organization and then develop plans to immediately and rapidly begin to move in that direction. To be successful, the process of planning must be made to work for people in the organization -- not the other way around. While I believe that there are some basic principles of strategic planning that must be followed, I also know that there must be flexibility in designing the actual planning timetable so that the organization in question achieves its hoped-for outcomes.
I am also convinced that many strategic planning efforts falter for at least three reasons: First, the failure to involve enough people in the process with the consequence that commitment to the strategic plan is weak. It is critical that representatives of all key constituencies be involved in the planning process in a meaningful way. "Real commitment" to a shared vision for the future only results from "real participation."
The second problem is the failure to translate the strategic plan into concrete action plans on an annual basis. Mention the words "strategic planning" in a large room and you can be sure that you'll hear a groan from some people. All too often, countless meetings, during which people invest considerable time and energy in the development of missions, visions, goals and strategies, never lead to development of concrete, measurable plans of action with clear accountability for results. Is it any wonder that people lack enthusiasm for strategic planning?
Related to this is the third reason for failure: resistance to the planning process because of past disappointments with similar efforts. In order to be successful, future planning efforts must somehow provide reasonable assurances that the time and energy people invest in the process result in changes and improvements that are implemented and supported by leadership.