I sit in a lot of meetings, I mean a lot of meetings, whether it is in the capacity as technology manager for a university, a writer, or an independent consultant working with education, house of worship and corporate clients, there’s a common thread: the consistent confusion of the differences between strategy and planning. . This problem certainly isn’t unique to audiovisual or information technology (IT) fields as corporations often struggle with this in communication and marketing as well.
When sitting with clients, again regardless of the capacity, I like to first flesh out their requests and get a picture of what their request looks like five years down the road. I want to know their plan, and see how I can design a system, or change a process, to meet their long-term goals. This helps me determine exactly what their plan is, what they want to implement and most importantly what they want to accomplish.
Don’t get me wrong, it is very important to have a plan. It’s important for everyone in leadership to know, or at least have a targeted vision, of what their department looks like five years down the road, ten years down the road etc. This is how companies grow and profitability expands, but the plan certainly isn’t the primary focus.
More important than the plan, is the strategy. If the plan is the “what” in what the department and/or company looks like in five, ten or fifteen years then the strategy is the “why” it looks that way. Often times, executives build five and ten year plans that seemed to be arrived at by throwing darts at a bunch of different ideas; which results in a scattered list of strategic initiatives which reads like a list of projects.
Developing a holistic strategy makes long term planning easier and more accurate. Each initiative or goal needs to have a measurable connection to your department or organization’s strategy. Five and ten-year plans are often more accurate and reliable when they are tied to the organizational strategy and core values than if they are just a list of projects to complete and goals to check off.
Spend more time developing a complete strategy and let that be the reason and the guide for long term plans. After all, long term plans are just a blueprint to execute your strategy.
Image credit: LexisNexis