Four Common Pitfalls in Strategic Planning Blog Feature

By: GreatAmerica on January 9th, 2023

Four Common Pitfalls in Strategic Planning

Originally published 12/4/2016. Updated on 1/9/21. 

For business owners and leaders, strategic planning is the time to reflect on the past year, examine the competitive landscape, explore possible strategic initiatives, and set company goals. But the idea of establishing strategic planning goals can feel overwhelming - especially if you don't have a good process and method for facilitation. So, what does a good process look like and what pitfalls should you avoid?  

A good strategic planning process will help you: 

  • Align company goals with your company mission and vision 
  • Define steps to achieve company goals 
  • Assign responsibility and timelines
  • Track progress toward short-term and long-term goals 

Pitfalls to avoid in strategic planning 

Strategic Planning can be a powerful process if done well. It can be the difference between driving straight to your business goals or taking a long, winding road to get there. As you look forward, consider these common pitfalls:

1. Inability to say “no”

No company can do everything. Many ideas are brought to the table in a good strategic planning brainstorm session. The real challenge can come with saying “no” to some good ideas in order to prioritize a reasonable number of strategic initiatives (4-6) that can be well-executed in the coming years. Often, leadership teams who are unable to narrow the focus don't do well at any initiatives and hamper their overall business success. A good facilitator can help company leaders with this challenge. 

Related: Lessons from Orville and Wilbur Wright: 3 Character Traits to Overcome Obstacles in Your Office Technology Business

2. Lack of ownership

With 4-6 solid initiatives in hand, the team should be able to get back to the office and make things happen in a focused way, right? Wrong! There must be assigned accountability to connect plans to actions. Without specific action items assigned to people or departments including expected timelines, the strategic initiatives will not have accountability with forward momentum. An effective way to do this is through leveraging powerful collaboration and project management tools. Many inexpensive or free options exist for outlining project plans, such as asana, Monday, or smart sheets. In these tools projects can be outlined, timelines can be set, and ownership can be assigned at a granular level.  

3. Communication

It’s not possible, nor desirable, to involve every employee in the development of the strategic initiatives, but employees work harder for something they feel a part of. It’s critical for broad communication of these new priorities to the whole company. By bringing their direct reports into the fold, senior leaders gain their commitment to the strategic initiatives, ensuring success. 

Related: To Win the Hiring Way, Focus on Employee Retention

4. Trying to do everything immediately

A good strategic plan usually includes multi-year initiatives. It can be tempting to try to front-load all the action items into the first few months but doing this rarely works. The most effective plans are those which have realistic time and resource allocation. A plan, broken into clear parts, also gives you the flexibility to adjust to external and internal changes, ensuring your large multi-year initiatives can stay on track and on target with your business objectives. Today, changes in the external environment seem constant and therefore demand we plan for course correction along the way. 

This year, incorporate strong strategic initiatives, avoid these common pitfalls and find yourself measurably closer to your destination. Contact PathShare to discuss your needs and create a clear path to your organization's success. 

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GreatAmerica is the largest independent, family-owned national commercial equipment finance company in the U.S. and is dedicated to helping manufacturers, vendors, and dealers be more successful and keep their customers for a lifetime. GreatAmerica was established in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1992 and now has offices in Iowa, Georgia, Minnesota, and Illinois. In addition to financing, GreatAmerica offers innovative non-financial services to help our customers grow.