When creating strategy, speed kills.

Posted by on Jan 10, 2011

When making strategy, speed can kill in several ways.

This will be the topic of my next three blog posts. First, I’ll explain how trying to plan too hastily kills the quality of a new strategy.  In the second post, I’ll write about how speed kills your momentum and any potential advantages you could have gained when you can’t execute your strategy quickly enough.  Finally, I’ll write about how speed kills your competitors’ advantages and builds yours when you have a great strategy and execute it quickly and effectively.

In his landmark book “The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning”, Henry Mintzberg noted that in the dozens of organizations he studied, strategic thinking occurs more or less continuously. But ironically, there’s one exception to this – strategic thinking comes to a halt during strategic planning sessions!  If you want a great strategic plan, you must work to bring your strategic thinking to a peak before you sit down together to plan.  Don’t expect to just “show up and decide”.  This rarely produces a sound plan.  The lesson? Don’t skimp on pre-planning preparation. It may be faster, but speed kills.

Speed also kills the quality of a new strategy. This is all too common today.  More and more leaders are cutting back on the time allowed for planning.  Rightly, they don’t want planning to consume any more of their valuable time than necessary.  Wrongly, they think setting an arbitrary limit on the amount of time allocated to planning will squeeze out all the waste while leaving only the value.

It’s hard to think of a more ill-advised place to try to save time and money than on implementation planning.  Planning and managing the change required to implement a new strategy is a much bigger job than most envision.  Prior to planning, most senior managers had little time to spare for other activities.  Once they start to implement a new plan, the restrictions on their time become painfully apparent. Those who lack clearly thought-out and realistic change plans invariably find it takes much longer to implement their plans. This delays the advantages of their plans.

I have seen clients take several years to finally wrestle critical implementation issues to the ground.  Invariably, these issues were identified during the planning process, but were not resolved because it would have taken more time or money than they allocated to planning.  In most such cases, far more is lost to this delay than it would have cost to plan properly from the start.

Failing to act quickly and decisively on a new plan kills momentum within the organization. It also kills the advantage the plan could bring the organization in the marketplace.  This is one important way in which speed kills in strategic planning.  Look for more in the next article, coming within a few weeks.

Do you see this differently or have observations you’d like to share?  Please post your comments and let’s discuss it. If you know someone who may want to read or join the discussion, please forward a link to them.

Copyright 2011 Knowlan Consulting Group Inc.