Research suggests that strategic planning is perhaps the most widely used management tool, with nearly 90% of organizations developing plans. However, we find that less than half of the companies are satisfied with the strategic planning process and less than a quarter make important decisions within the given limits. There is no doubt that in many companies the strategic planning process is dysfunctional. But why is it like that?

I believe that one reason for this strategic mismatch is that companies tend to focus on, and sometimes become obsessed with, very tactical and detailed issues about how their business works without first figuring out what their business is about. important strategic priorities that underlie all decisions.

Decisions must be made every day, that should not be underestimated, and everything seems all the more urgent and important as competition and the speed of change increase. But how do we ensure that the decisions we make are the right ones and truly reflect both our identity and our priorities as an organization?


Strategy can be defined as the general priorities that an organization adopts in recognition of its operating environment and in pursuit of its mission. These top priorities are determined by effectively answering four key strategic questions:

  1. What keeps us going?
  2. What are we selling?
  3. Who are our customers?
  4. How do we sell (our value proposition)?

Answering these questions creates a foundation of strategic choice, which then serves as a filter or ‘decision-engine’ to answer more tactical strategic questions.


Let’s put that in context. A financial services company looking to differentiate itself from its many competitors may be faced with the following questions:


  • Do we need a new CRM software?
  • Should we automate branches?
  • Should we invest in social networks?

The company may have considered dozens of other important strategic issues when attempting to develop a viable strategy. But could they answer these and other questions with confidence and conviction?

I contend that there should be some order in the development and implementation of strategies. Before you can answer specific questions like the ones above, you need to agree on basic or broad priorities for your business, which are represented by my four questions. Take, for example, the question, “Should we have automated stores?” An effective answer requires context, and that context is provided by your answers to the core questions. Before you decide whether you want automated branches, it’s important to determine what your products and services will focus on. Is this combination suitable for an automated branch environment? Before answering this question, also think about customer centricity.  Do automated branches meet the needs of the target customer segment? And of course, how does automated stores impact your chosen value proposition? If you believe customers come to you because they expect exceptional, personalized service, automated branches could be a direct violation of that value proposition.

Organizations must first focus on their overall business priorities so they can make more informed decisions about the strategic choices they face in the future. Tactical questions can arise when discussing key priorities, but it’s important that you “ask” them or use them to answer broader questions. Remember that the original purpose of strategic planning is to lay the groundwork for a strategic process, not to solve specific operational problems or challenges. Achieving consensus on overall strategic priorities not only improves team alignment, but also provides a basis for making better, more timely decisions about the many strategic decisions you face every day.


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts