On Strategic Planning

95% of strategic planning is crap, with a margin of error of ~5%. I have had a hand in a number of strategic plans and I have come to revile almost every aspect of them. Rather than regale you with a long list of woe, here are my top two gripes:

  • They take an astounding amount of time. You tie up multiple people for man-years doing this stuff. You end up in the worst kind of meeting ever created - a bunch of tech-hipsters sitting around a table word-smithing a document - again and again and again. Because you are the only one that has heard about the Google Docs, 78 versions of the draft will be sitting in your inbox at any given time. You spend more time talking about doing things than it would take to actually do the things.
  • They aren’t useful. Nobody is going to read it. You openly acknowledge as much when you slap an executive summary on the front. But you’re kidding yourself there too. The executives aren’t going to read the summary page. Nobody is going to read it. You could have dumped 40 pages from the Corporate Bullshit Generator in a text file for all the good it will do. About a week after it is done and the mock celebrations are over, you will send it to the place where documents (and innovation and collaboration and dreams) go to die - SharePoint. And that will be that.

So. Guess who got put in a group tasked with creating a new strategic plan?

But I’m in a group with some smart folks. And I have a plan. I haven’t told them the plan yet. But it goes something like this: chuck the 40+ page document. Just forget it. What you want to make is something like this:

You don’t need a strategic plan. You need a dashboard. An interactive dashboard that you can see on your computer, you can print on a piece of paper, you can put on the giant TV you wish you had in your common area. It can go everywhere. It’s easy to understand. One page. Every quarter, take an hour and update the sucker. Everybody is on the same page. It shows where you are going. It shows what you are doing. A strategic plan than is actually useful. Booyah. Done. If you really want to make a 40+ page document in addition to this to stick on SharePont for historic or masochistic purposes, feel free. Just don’t tell me about it.

CAN I PULL OFF THIS MAD STROKE OF GENIUS?! Ah, no, probably not. But the idea that I could is going to get me through the next 6 months without clearing out my liquor cabinet.

*Plus, I kinda wanted an excuse to fool around with D3. Alas, this ended up not being the project for it. I made the SVG in Inkscape and used a tiny bit of jQuery and Bootstrap to do popovers. Sigh.