Strategic Planning

3 reasons why CEOs need to rethink strategic planning in 2024

Rethinking strategic planning

Strategic planning has forever been a core responsibility of the CEO. During the rising-tide economy of the 2010s, it was a relatively straightforward process. But when COVID-19 hit in 2020, every leader in the world’s strategic plan blew up overnight.

Now, in the aftermath of the pandemic, we live in a radically different economy, one marked by accelerated disruption and continued uncertainty. Changes happen suddenly and rapidly. Consequently, strategic planning has become more critical than ever, and the dynamic nature behind it means CEOs must put even more energy into their process than ever before.

Recent Vistage research revealed that 72% of CEOs utilize an internally developed approach for strategic planning. However, in our current economic landscape, solely relying on a self-built framework that has been generated over time or handed down generationally is no longer sufficient. Strategic planning processes need to flex to meet the ever-changing nature of today’s marketplace. So, for CEOs who continue to rely on their “tried and tested” approach to strategic planning, now is the time to pause and reconsider their process.

Strategic planning should ultimately seek to serve as a blueprint for success. This is more than a tactical operating plan laying out to-do’s. When done correctly, strategic planning provides clarity, creates alignment, and drives execution.

1. Clarity

First and foremost, the successful strategic planning process results in clarity. It shines a light on an organization’s unique identity, including its overarching mission, vision, purpose and culture, as well as what ultimately differentiates it from its competitors. The planning process also seeks to uncover meaningful data and trendlines to back each decision. Every goal and KPI ladders back to this central identity. Nothing is sporadic or disjointed — everything is working in unison.

2. Alignment

After finding clarity, strategic planning plays a key role in orchestrating internal alignment. Transparency is key to ensuring every employee can not only dictate the objectives of their organization but also how their role is contributing to the greater purpose. All contributing individuals collectively move towards a shared purpose; instead of pushing against each other, everyone is pulling with each other.
This unified approach then translates externally to the greater marketplace, including current and prospective customers, by creating a unified position for the company.

3. Execution

Perhaps most importantly, strategic planning drives outcomes. Armed with clarity and alignment, employees can execute in a way that is consistent with the organization’s values and vision. A strong strategic plan ensures everyone across an organization is marching in the same direction and generates accountability across every level, from intern to C-suite.

To reach these three important planning goals amid continued volatility, using the same standard template on a three-year basis simply falls short. In today’s world, strategic planning must be nimble. When the next growth cycle starts, leaders need to be able to accelerate on a dime. Similarly, they must be adaptable to emerging technology. And they are required to understand the unpredictable nature of the current macroeconomic landscape. Similarly, strategic plans must evolve in scope and scale over time. What works for a company of 20 employees does not work for a company of 100 people.

As another planning cycle comes into full swing for many companies, the time is now for CEOs to reassess and reevaluate their planning format. All too often, leaders get stuck in a mindset of what’s worked in the past. However, in the ongoing dynamic environment of accelerated change, leaders need to take their strategies to the next level. This requires finding and eliminating the gaps in their current processes and turning to trusted sources for external perspectives.

Without outside quality assurances, CEOs may rely on insular or outdated thinking. If COVID-19 has taught leaders anything, it’s that plans can be derailed without any notice — companies who focus on clarity, alignment and execution, while remaining flexible to the unknown, will come out on top.

This article first appeared in Inc.

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About the Author: Joe Galvin

Joe Galvin is the Chief Research Officer for Vistage Worldwide. Vistage members receive the most credible, data-driven and actionable thought leadership on the strategic issues facing CEOs. Through collaboration with the Vistage community of…

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