"It is impossible for ideas to
compete in the marketplace if no forum for
their presentation is provided or available."
Thomas Mann, 1896
The Business Forum
the Global Strategic Plan ~ A Human Issue
Strategic planning is a fairly easy chore. Managers can
usually determine the direction in which the company should move. They can
generally determine, or make educated guesses about new products, expanded
markets, changes in competition, innovations in technology, financing
requirements, etc. Goal and objective setting are staples of business,
worldwide. Corporations have accepted, most without knowing, Russell
Ackoff's  plea for them to create their company's future. It is not a
difficult task to lay out a comprehensive set of alternative strategies at
the corporate or divisional level. Making those strategies work is the real
the strategic plan is an often-overlooked aspect of the planning process.
Corporate executives assume that the plan will be implemented. Generals
always expect that their orders will be carried out, even if those orders
are wrong or inappropriate for the particular problem. While strategy
formulation is regarded as a staff function, strategic implementation is
generally viewed as a key function of line management. If the strategic
plan is to be put into place in a timely manner and the results of that
plan, the anticipations and expectations that long-term goals and short-term
objectives will be attained, then strategic planners must examine the
organizational issues involved in making the plan happen. The clear
understanding of and the ability to deal with these issues during the
strategy formulation process may make the difference between a strategic
plan that has become nothing more than an academic exercise and a living,
vital set of guidelines to future profits and continued corporate successes.
Successful implementation resolves around two related human
and organizational issues: successfully overcoming anti-planning bias and
ensuring goal congruency among middle managers. These two broad concerns
stem from beliefs that the corporation is not the master of its own destiny
and, certain recent events (2008-2009) may actually prove that those ideas
may, in fact, be true when economic conditions override strategy. The
future in always uncertain and any attempts to control future events must,
therefore, be futile. The fault here is an inability to forecast economic
and financial issues, over some agreed upon planning horizon. The firm must
become proactive not reactive.
management theory has tended to reinforce these two issues. The classical
concept of the manager as planner and controller is actually at odds with
the futuristic approaches of strategic planning. Global business emphasizes
the "results oriented" manager. Rewards are given for putting out the
fires. Incentives are granted for past achievements, and not for results
yet to be seen.
Lack of goal congruency is another aspect that is closely
related to the rewards system. While competition among companies is
desirable, inter-divisional or inter-departmental competition often proves
to be a disaster. Organizational conflict may be highlighted in trying to
implement the plan. Middle managers are often not consulted on those
strategic decisions affecting their areas of functional responsibility.
They may disagree on corporate mandated goals and objectives. The line may
be in conflict with the staff. One overly simplified solution often
suggested is the participative or collaborative approach to management
decision making. This "concurrence" method is supposed to allow all those
concerned the ability to offer their inputs into strategic implementation.
It very often produces acquiescence rather than agreement. Managers are
prone to provide what they perceive as "wanted" rather than expressing
dissenting points of view. In addition, the concurrence procedure is
often used as a tool to vindicate the strategy rather than to produce viable
In order to
achieve implementation, it is incumbent upon senior management to understand
and to deal with the organizational issues that may hinder placing the plan
into operation. There are at least ten human reasons for lack of goal
congruency and/or anti-planning bias. Each of these reasons must be
considered as a part of the whole. Effective management of these symptoms
of organizational ills will go a long way toward more successful strategic
planning and rapid implementation of the plan.
planning is an instrument for change within the organization. The more
widespread and all encompassing the strategy is, the greater the change.
Successful implementation requires the abilities to understand the impact of
organizational change on this process.
1. Planning Changes Interpersonal Relations
changes may create feelings of uncertainty. Strategic planning often
changes priorities. The future becomes as important as the present.
Peer relationships, both within a unit and across departmental lines,
are often interrupted as a result of changes in priorities and
2. Planning Changes Decision-Making Relationships
of change involved in the strategy formulation and implementation
process is the development of new channels of information. Information
flows are revised. Decision-making requires a more futuristic outlook.
This suggests that management decisions made today will have impact
tomorrow. Most managers do not perceive themselves to be futurists.
There is often resistance to becoming forward-looking. Successful
implementation requires this kind of change in management perspective.
3. Planning Often Highlights Organizational Conflict
the benefits that were achieved by Zero Base Planning and Budgeting
during the 1970s was the elimination of overlapping functional areas.
In a similar way, strategic planning and strategic agility can eliminate
overlapping decision-making points by identifying specific areas where
implementation decisions must be made and carried out.
also exposure to the potential sources of conflict likely to be found
between staff and line and among various line organizations. These
conflicts can contribute to anti-planning feelings and/or differing
goals and objectives. Organizational conflict tends to prolong the
implementation process. Recognition that such conflict exists will go a
long way toward realizing the corporate goals and objectives.
4. Organizational Problems May Curtail Implementation
short-term problems get in the way of long range planning. Putting out
the brush fires seems to be more important than the prevention of future
fires. Performance evaluations are nearly always based upon past
results rather than future activities. Managers quickly learn that
success lies in dealing with current problems may be more rewarding than
implementing a strategic plan. This is a symptom of "results oriented"
management, and is a world-wide problem.
5. Fear of Failure
is always uncertain, unknown. Strategic planning involves error. The
present appears to be less risky, more comfortable, and safer. It is
difficult to quantify the future. Profit targets may be missed by large
margins. Failure is equated with incompetence. A successful Fortune
500 Company used to suggest that "the future belongs to those who
prepare for it." This concept must be instilled into managers charged
with implementing the company's strategies.
to failure and uncertainty should be an expectation of managers at all
levels. Avoiding the future by failure to implement will cause serious
disruption to the future success of the firm just as surely as will
6. Planning Requires New Demands on Managers
Planning has always been considered a function of
management. But planning requires a fundemental realignment of
managers' thinking processes. The mental discipline of considering
future issues rather than current problems represents a major change in
job responsibilities. Some managers must be available to solve current
problems while other must be looking forward. Managers must become more
abstract. Future planning demands more right brain utilization.
Operational managers must, therefore, change their methods of
discharging their functional responsibilities. The transition from
current to future decision-making is a tough one. That transition must
be made if the strategic plan is to be successfully implemented.
7. Desires to Avoid Uncertainty
always discomfort where uncertainty exists. Managers will resist
procedures that appear to increase that uncertainty. In truth,
strategic planning and strategic agility tend to diminish concerns about
the future. Planning actually increases the amount of control over the
future actions of the company. The plan provides a measure against
which the future can be compared. Of course, this can only be true if
the plan is implemented. A plan that is buried in the bottom drawer is
only an academic exercise.
may be perceived as a threat. It tends to disrupt the day-to-day
activities of the functional manager. It poses a threat as regards the
incursion of outsiders on to the managers' territories, virtually, an
invasion of privacy. The "don't tread on my turf" syndrome is
implementation may actually hurt the organization. If there has been a
collaborative approach used in planning, implementation of the plan will
be far easier to accomplish.
8. The "Don't Make Waves Syndrome"
and implementation both require innovative management procedures. Some
managers are simply afraid of becoming innovative. They are quite
comfortable in their daily tasks and are frightened of "making waves."
Innovation challenges operational management. Innovation is for the
Executive Suite, not for the factory floor is an approach taken by many
functional managers. Innovation demands change. Implementing the
strategic plan requires that management accepts change as its
responsibility and to anticipate it. The plan may actually render
invalid some of the traditional management concepts imbedded within the
organization. The planning process may disrupt reporting lines. In some
cases, the line manager must report planning activities along different
chains of command than operational activities. The manager may follow
suggested implementation guidelines rather than his or her own intuition
for fear of "making waves."
must come to understand that "wave making" may be absolutely necessary
if the strategic plan is to be successfully implemented.
9. "I don't have the time."
managers never seem to find the time to plan or to implement. They view
their day-to-day responsibilities as requiring their full attention.
Time management techniques must be employed if plans are to be set in
Occasionally, managers may never find the time to think about the
future. This is an abdication of managerial responsibility. Proper
sequencing may help here. Implementation is a natural part of the
planning process. It should be seen as a integral part of planning, not
as an adjunct to the process. Implementation activities should be
scheduled well in advance. Certain specific milestones toward the
attainment of corporate and divisional goals should be detailed in the
of the organizational issues is that the future is not controllable.
Why implement a plan when the future will take care of itself? Planning
is a method of creating a desirable future for the company. Plans not
implemented represent exercises in futility. A fully implemented
strategic plan is the best tool that a company can have to deal with the
complexities of the 21st Century. Strategic planning suggests that
every manager must become a strategist.
organizations literally make the future happen. They are much better
prepared to meet contingent events. There are many financial
institutions in the United States and abroad whose careful strategic
planning and "what if . . .?" scenarios have helped them to survive the
recent economic/financial world-wide crises.
Anti-planning feelings and lack of goal congruency are endemic in global
Senior executives must recognize that
these are human related issues. They cannot change attitudes and
perspectives by mandate. They must demonstrate their full support for the
firm's planning process and ensure that plans are fully implemented by
changing existing reward systems, incentive plans and by demonstrating that
the benefits of planning far outweigh the trouble to plan and to implement.
Henry H. Goldman
is the Managing Director of the Goldman Nelson Group. Henry got
his Masters Degree at the University of Iowa and did his Doctoral
Studies at the University of Southern California. He is a
Certified Professional Consultant to Management (CPCM); and has
published numerous articles in trade journals and was Associate
Editor of Taking Stock: A Survey on the Practice and Future of
Change Management (Berlin, Germany). He is a member of the
American Society for Training and Development (ASTD); Association of
Professional Consultants (APC) and the Institute of Management
Consultants (IMC). Henry has consulted and/or offered training in
South Africa, Tanzania, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau,
Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Barbados, Georgia, Kosovo,
Tajikistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and of
course North America. He has also taught at Baker University:
Lee’s Summit, MO, 2008, Adjunct Professor of International Business;
National Graduate School: Falmouth, MA, 2004-2008, Adjunct Professor
of Quality Management; California State University: Fullerton,
2005-2006, Lecturer on Taxation; University of California: Berkeley,
2002, Adjunct Professor of Management; University of Macau (China),
Adjunct Professor of Management, 2001-2003.
Visit the Authors Web Site
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