Strategy vs Plans

By Bruce Wade

A lot of companies are wrapping up their financial year ends this month and now go into annual planning sessions for the year ahead. With new budgets coming into effect next week and with heightened expectations and projects coming online the activity of planning is fierce.

But let’s pause here for a moment and ask the question, “What is the difference between planning and strategy development?”

Planning has been done by people, teams and departments for ages now. Most people have used the old SMART goals methodology. I hope that these are not used ever again. The system is old and does not work as an application in the real working environment.

We then saw the emergence of KPI and KPA systems that were never planning but just a way to micromanage people with a cool set of terms and systems. This allowed managers to peek over the shoulders of their workers and keep them in line when they deviated from the agreed outcomes.

The latest system is now OKRs or Outcomes and Key Results. This system is slowly rolling out through the business schools and corporates from the Western business world.

But all these are just different ways to manage the workers in large organisations. This is still not a strategy.

Let’s get into strategy: Strategy is the bridge that interconnects the two islands of current resources and our future desired destination. This bridge is constructed with milestones and budgets. These are connected by projects and resources. The bridge is then paved with actions and measurements. These are the plans. Together they make up the strategy bridge that can now be navigated and will support any sort of management tool that you may use to check on the activity of your staff.

For some companies a regular scrum meeting will do, for others, a screen capturing tool is used to take pics of all staff screens every 10 minutes (I kid you not). But whatever is used or desirable for management, it all becomes useless unless the strategy bridge has been correctly constructed.