Monday 10 September 2012

Strategic Planning?

I've quoted from my brother's Daily "Retailer" column before. A recent quote caught my eye from General Eisenhower:

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”.

Having just completed acevo's staff awayday and my own Director's awayday I'm preparing for my Board awayday. So strategic planning is on my mind.

We have been putting together plans for the next 2+ years to take us to the Election in May 2015.

This is a period of great uncertainty; further cuts in public spending, more recession and hardening attitudes to the excluded and marginalised. Yet also of potential for our sector's delivery role and voice.

You can have the most well crafted plan, the result of months of careful research and analysis and just get it wrong in reality. Sometimes events intervene. Your instinct tells you part of that careful plan just don't work.

And its crucial for a CEO to avoid the detail nerds! There is a class of people for whom a strategic plan process sure beats working. I remember talking to a new CEO in an organisation which was ripe for change. I asked what was she planning and she told me it was important they made no changes till they had carefully reviewed their current strategy and got the Board to agree a new Plan. I suggested some change was so blindingly obvious it needed sorting now.

That is not to suggest strategic planning is not important. It is.

However strategic planning is iterative. Life don't get set in aspic so neither can a strategic plan. But there is a huge truth in the Eisenhower quote. Any CEO has to be constantly questioning direction and mission. Debating how changes in the climate affect the sector and beneficiaries. Getting boards and teams together to debate, to share wisdom and to think out the box is a key activity in any innovative organisation.

I'm keen on real awaydays- where you go away from the office for a day and night. We have done this in acevo in the past we have done Windsor castle, a convent and a farm. Fortunately I have had the offer of a stately home for next year!

And the Social Investment business is shortly to do such a real awayday. Next week we are going to a zoo. Not any old zoo but one run by an amazing acevo member! (See a previous Blog on Tywcross Zoo ). We will review our investment plans and options for growth.

On a broader front, one of the problems I have been discussing with colleagues in Sheffield University is our lack of real long term strategic thinking. Not a 3 year time frame but decades. So how will a decade of austerity in public spending change the welfare state? How will health and medicine change the way we live and work? For example, how will changes in shopping habits over a decade or so affect charities running shops? We’re pursuing some ideas to help CEOs on this broader front.

So yes, strategy is crucial. Big glossy 3 or 5 year plans that inhibit change maybe less so?

And finally what a glorious weekend it was in Charlbury so her some photos to enjoy:

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