How One Typical Facilitator (Mistakenly) Concluded the Client Wasn’t Doing Strategic Planning
I got a call last week from a facilitator, asking for advice about an aspect of strategic planning. He kept asserting that his client, a manufacturer of outdoor recreational equipment, wasn’t doing strategic planning. I asked how he came to that conclusion.
He responded that, first, there was no Plan document that the client could show him. Second, they couldn’t answer his questions about what the client would do if there were changes, e.g., politically or economically, that would influence the client’s organization. The client wasn’t able to come up with a strategy. So the facilitator concluded the client was simply not doing strategic planning.
But Wasn’t the Client Doing Strategic Planning? Really?
I began asking questions in order to understand more about the client so I could give good advice to the facilitator about his strategic planning project. From the questions, I learned that the client:
- Realized the “baby boomer bubble” was getting older, so he’d need to update his product line accordingly, perhaps to accommodate the “young old” (people from 60-80 years of age).
- Wanted to reduce his labor costs, perhaps by outsourcing more work, especially to other countries having cheaper labor costs.
- Wanted to position his company to be more competitive in the marketplace where there was increasing competition. The client especially wanted to update his unique value proposition.
I asked the facilitator how the client came to realize those priorities. The facilitator mentioned that, although the client doesn’t do planning, he does seem to stay on top of a lot of the current trends in his industry and society, and does have some ideas.
So then I asked the facilitator if the client really was doing a form of strategic planning — it just wasn’t the best form of comprehensive, explicit, research-based and systematic planning that usually is best for an organization.
Yes, the Client Was Doing Strategic Planning — Just Not the Best Planning
At this point in our conversation, the facilitator realized that he had been to quick to conclude that the client simply was not doing planning. He added that he should even affirm to the client that he had been doing planning, and that the facilitator could help the client to do it even better.
Moral of the Story: Don’t Be So Quick to Proclaim Your Clients Aren’t Planning
It seems increasingly with writers and consultants that, if an organization is not doing their particular preferred form of planning, they conclude the organization is not doing planning. (This is true especially as we’ve put for more emphasis on the need to be “strategic” — a term which has different definitions for different people. )
That conclusion can be damaging to the planners and to the working relationship with the client. Instead, recognize and affirm any planning that the client is doing.
What do you think?
(There’s a massive amount of free resources in the Strategic Planning topic in the Free Management Library.)