6 Strategic questions… and 6 answers.

Rudyard Kipling wrote in his poem Elephant’s Child, «six faithful servants taught me everything I know: where, how, when, what, who and why».

Each organization is unique and has its own strategic planning process, but I think these questions are essential. See each.
What: Every business has a short number of key abilities or distinctive capabilities which make it stronger than their competitors. The process of strategic planning determines the desired goals and ways –actions to perform- to reach them using those key abilities, at the present or developed for the coming years. Strategic planning is not a luxury but an essential, formal or informal it depends on size, structure and of course rigor needed.

Why: Strategic planning is a continuous process and partly unsystematic due to creativity required at certain stages, and once the last stage of the process is closed, the harsh reality pull down many of the statements and calls for attention again, relentlessly. But planning has forced people to think about the organization reasons for being and its envisioned future… and will do it again, both inward and outward, continually. The expertise to be acquired when planning is done in the best way posible, provides a dynamic capability that will provide the organization with versatility and resilience to failures, two essential attributes in order to achieve a competitive advantage difficult to imitate and durable.


When: The need to revise the strategic planning can arise at any time. Obviously, when the environment is stable the need to predict or decide is often scarce. But the current environment is crazy and unstable, which brings out a paradox: caution against revolution. Indeed, rhythm, or more appropriate timing to run planned actions requires caution, because the greater uncertainty, the greater frequency(ª) of the planning and its review or vice versa. Unfortunately, many so-called strategic decisions are only reactions that may hold for the moment but are strategically myopic when it comes to creating value. They are neither decisions nor strategic.

Where: On the one hand, the instability of the environment is a powerful incentive to decentralize(ª) the process of making strategic decisions due to the pressure of speed, and need for versatility along with making effective decisions. Furthermore, in strategic alliances, fairly present, while understanding that coordination is necessary, few organizations want to be coordinated by others, and it is assumed that their process of decision making is untouchable; frequent consultations are preferred instead of dealing with the appointment of a suitable candidate to lead in joint operations management. The relevance of this response needs to find a balance between centralization and decentralization, within an agreed set of constraints.

How: flexibility and formality of planning processes are inversely proportionated, while need for detailed plans not only remains but grows to meet challenges successfully by means of bigger planning effort. But speed is omnipresent, and takes bad with bureaucracy. Technology helps in this: To send a report or convert data and information into knowledge that supports quick but effective decisions, anytime and anywhere, does not require either extra effort or time. Instill, open up a fluid and effective communication, and deploy the strategy requires reducing bureaucracy to the minimum necessary in order to achieve adaptability and flexibility.

Who: Everybody, top-down & bottom-up. The strategy aims to achieve certain goals in a given time period synchronizing -not only coordinating- the efforts of all components of the organization and those from strategic allies, in a certain way and with a common goal known and shared by all. Everyone who should act in a certain area and be informed or report actual performance must participate, because ideas can emerge almost anywhere. The effective implementation of one normal strategy is better than to have an extraordinary one in staff archives.

(ª) See Robert M. Grant. Strategic management journal. June 2003. Strategic Planning in a Turbulent Environment: Evidence from the Oil Majors. 

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