by Joseph Flahiff

3 things strategic plans and New Year’s resolutions have in common

Jan 07, 2016
IT LeadershipIT Strategy

Strategic plans and New Year's resolutions hold three things in common, here is a look at how and why you need to change them.

It is that time again, a new year is upon us and people worldwide are making New Year’s resolutions, at the same time leaders of organizations are making strategic plans. Here are three ways in which your New Year’s resolutions and strategic plans are similar and why/how you need to change them.

1. You won’t keep them

The reason that people laugh at jokes about New Year’s resolutions is that we can all relate. The same is true of your strategic plans.

2. You need to make them

The best thing about strategic plans doing them. “HUH?” You say. “But Joseph you just said we never keep them so why do them?”  It is simple and Dwight D. Eisenhower said it best when he said something like,

“Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” 

The real value is in taking the time to think through where you are going with your business or with your life and more importantly why.

3. You are doing them wrong

The problem is we spend too much time getting into too much detail about the plan.  We seem to think that knowing more about the details of WHAT and HOW will help us execute. So, businesses and people spend hundreds of person hours, detailing their strategic plans and personal New Year’s resolutions so they know what they will DO and HOW they will go about it. The problem is we all know that our lives and our businesses are more complex than that it is truly impossible to make plans 2 or 3 years out.

It is better to set direction and focus on why than to set long term goals and make long range plans.  By taking the time to define the direction you want to head, you will spend less time on the details of a destination that you will likely never meet. As Yoda said,

“Difficult to see, always in motion the future is.”

When you start thinking about direction you will start to think about why the outcomes of the direction. Think about the:

  • Good things that will happen if you go in this direction?
  • Bad things you will avoid if you head in this direction?
  • Benefits of heading in that direction
  • Drawbacks of keeping on the track you were on or of alternative paths.

Build up enough reasons and consequences and your direction will be cemented in your heart and mind. This then becomes the core of your communication to the rest of the organization. 

At this point I would like to lay to rest the term Strategic Plan.

Let us introduce a new term, Strategic Direction that guides organizational strategic and tactical thinking. This is a shift from a small group developing a fixed strategic plan to an entire organization working in unison in a strategic direction with everyone thinking and making decisions. Think about the implications of this approach. Suddenly your entire company is making strategic decisions aligned with the executive team and with each other. You are an avalanche of coordinated decisions and action. You are going to crush 2016!