Why Is Strategic Planning Difficult?

  • By: Change Strategists
  • Time to read: 9 min.

Quite often, it can be challenging to conceptualize the big picture of any project, especially when all you have is a mental picture of it. Other times, it can be intimidating, trying to bring to reality an idea, making it harder to reach any reasonable conclusion.

Forecasting, or the practice of economic projections, generates extended feedback loops that make strategic planning difficult due to the continuous effort to recreate a mental picture of the company’s blueprint. So, as an aspect of management, dealing with people as part of a team can make matters more complex for the planning process. Hence, strategic planning is often regarded as difficult.

Strategic planning is critical to the success of any organization as it creates the means for the establishment to time travel into the future.

This way, the organization stands a chance of knowing where it is headed, and the route required before embarking on the journey.

What Makes Strategic Planning Challenging

The mental focus required to reach into the future for the desired outcome and begin the planning process for its actualization is one of the hardest things to do (strategic planning) in business management. 

Essentially, it is a proactive approach to organizational management where instead of reacting to the market, you build your enterprise based on values that are true to your organization’s ideals. 

Additionally, information appears more abundant and disoriented in the human mind due to the millions of thoughts crossing the mind per second. From a biological standpoint, the brain produces waves, causing neurons to fire electrical impulses at astonishing speed, resulting in a mental overload of information. 

Mental overload is usually due to overexposure to stimuli from our environment. Strategic management leads to an endless analysis of how to stay ahead of the competition and business. 

Therefore strategic planning is setting futuristic goals to define the present while unifying both fronts of the organization.

Additionally, execution remains another challenge of the strategic planning process. In other words, the management spends an enormous amount of time creating the plan and implementing it. Ideally, strategic plans should function as the pioneer plan of an organization under which other goals flourish. 

So while the strategic plan guides the effort and implementation of the organization, it is also possible to have more than one strategic plan—general and specific. Examples of strategic plans include but are not limited to marketing, resource, and finance strategic plans. 

So, strategic plans are outlines of steps created with the mental picture of the goals and objectives of the company instead of departmental or sectional goals. It begins with the firm’s mission and vision. 

Therefore strategic plans are far-reaching into the future, a couple of years more, some as long as ten years ahead. As a result, strategic planning requires several levels of involvement with harmony binding all levels for easy actualization. 

The higher management levels chart the overall course of action for the entire organization, leaving the lower management levels to develop compatible means of execution. Thus, the strategic planning input of the higher management level becomes the organizational framework. 

Common Problems With Strategic Planning That Befall Most Companies

Strategic planning problems are process- and personnel-oriented, making them more complicated than meets the eye. Therefore, this section will discuss the challenges of strategic planning befalling most businesses from two critical standpoints: the planning process and the personnel (strategic planners).

Process Challenges That Make Strategic Planning Difficult?

More often than not, the strategic planning process makes it difficult, albeit there is hardly any other way. The process is the key element and worth every effort. The reason is that once you have successfully figured out your process, every other aspect of the plan falls in place. 

However, the planning process is not an easy feat; as expected, you will encounter some difficulties. So, this section will discuss why strategic processes fail and enable you to avoid them.

When the Executives Do Not Support the Planning Process

Strategic management and planning are strictly executive responsibilities and should not be outsourced to project managers, no matter how talented. 

The reason is that every strategic plan requires the buy-in of the organization’s leaders to begin taking shape. Other team members will be more eager to commit to the process when they see the organization leaders pioneering the strategic planning process.

When All Team Members Are Left Out of the Process.

Even though the company executives pioneer strategic planning, it is not an exclusive responsibility. As a result, every team member should be on board with the planning process. 

The reason is that every member has something worthwhile to contribute to the scheme. Also, plans are easier to implement when it is a collective affair instead of a directive by a select few.

When the Process and Your Strategy Do Not Align.

All strategic meetings aim to wrap up the organization’s action plan. It keeps all members aligned with the company’s objectives for easy execution. Normally, people get scared about the process involved in any venture, viewing it as a series of difficult events. However, having a unified purpose can significantly take the pressure away.

Misinformation and Miscommunication

No firm succeeds with poor communication because information is the primary resource in strategic management and planning. Stakeholders must be aware of the process from the outset and be able to communicate the details to team members. 

The reason is that centralizing information enables everyone to be on the same page to facilitate the execution of the plans. Additionally, your company can implement strategic planning software for easy information management and communication.

Poor Sense of Responsibility

A poor sense of responsibility contributes to a complex planning process as no one takes ownership for any stage along the process. Humans are more efficient in groups when assigned tasks, and each individual is responsible for a specific stage in the process. 

This way, the organization can build stronger coordination and cooperation among team members with increased enthusiasm from a great sense of responsibility. If tasks are not assigned to members for each part of the strategy, no one takes responsibility for whatever happens. As a result, the operational process of the firm slows down.

Furthermore, the ownership problem is why an establishment appoints program and project managers. They are responsible for creating milestones and assigning micro tasks to members within the organization towards actualizing the company’s long-term goals. 

Even though responsibility levels differ for every firm, the idea remains to create more accountability for smoother operations.

Disorganized Organizational Data

Data is an essential ingredient in the successful running of any establishment. As a result, an organized data management system is critical for strategic planning. It is a system that guarantees easy access to data, company information and all catalogues for a seamless planning process. 

An organized database helps to ease the stress of sourcing information from different sources, especially for the program and project managers who have to deal with sorting and organizing information within the company. 

In addition to sorting and organizing data, company reports must be accurate and consistent with the goals and objectives of the company. This is because inconsistent data reporting can be a major difficulty when making organizational plans.  

Lack of Process Review

As is expected in any life situation, “change is constant.” Therefore, no strategic plan is ever static, provided the other components of the plan like personnel and other external factors like stakeholders and market influences continue to change. Every plan must be subject to consistent review in line with current happenings around the firm. 

Additionally, a regularly reviewed plan is easy to adjust as all stakeholders are already familiar with the previous plan and what lies ahead of the firm. In other words, a consistent review gives rise to the proper evolution of the company plans alongside members of the organization. 

Personnel Challenges (Strategic Planners) That Make Strategic Planning Difficult?

Even though strategic planning is ultimately a process, it does not independently exist as it requires a human element (strategic planners) to make it feasible. Strategic planners often face several challenges while creating the plans and require maximum awareness of how these challenges often present themselves to overcome them easily. 

Here are some common forms of such challenges that complicate strategic planning.

Engagement

Engagement becomes a serious problem when team members and stakeholders cannot relate and integrate with the plan. As a result, the plan stagnates and fails to be executed. Engagement is critical for any strategic planning to work. Therefore, the planning committee must ensure that the plans are simple and easily understandable. 

Additionally, they must ensure that all stakeholders and members significantly buy into the process to increase their motivation to engage with the planning. 

Agreement

Every organization has several members with different ideologies, some of which may disagree with the planning process. As a result, the plan may lack the required consensus to achieve the necessary engagement for implementation. 

However, several business tools and project management models exist to bring most members on the same page with significant understanding. 

Also, collaboration tools like project management software, including shared workspaces like Google Docs, can allow employees to brainstorm and work together on similar projects, each contributing their specific skills to the harmonious running of the plan. 

Execution or Implementation

Execution and implementation are probably the most critical challenges strategic planners face. The reason is that it is the most intensive aspect of the planning process, requiring the practical application of the mental picture and theoretical schematics of the plan. 

Sometimes, there could be an increased force of inertia, making it difficult to implement the plan. As a result, strategic planners need to be self-driven and self-motivating to galvanize the implementation of the plans. Furthermore, you can only know a perfect plan after execution. 

Sample Template for Handling Strategic Planning Difficulties

Strategic planning difficulties are not set in stone. As a result, strategic planning difficulties, whether process or personnel-oriented, are different for every company. 

So in the heat of the moment, when these challenges appear impossible, here is a table showing a template for solving most strategic planning difficulties. 

Sample Strategic Planning Difficulties Large and complex goals.Sample Solutions/Recommendations Adopting a SMART approach to organizational goal setting.
Member’s resistance to organizational change. Adopt an all-inclusive approach that involves all team members in the planning process.
Strategic misalignment resulting from excessive nonstrategic activities. Create a hierarchical structure within the company to help put things in perspective.
Operations vs. growth dichotomy. Use situational analysis and strategic frameworks to further organize the plans into operational and growth strategies, etc.
Process tracking and indicator measurements.By measuring one process at a time or using several analytical tools for process trackings, such as spreadsheets and other project management tools. 
Disconnection from the company’s big picture.Regular review of company goals helps to keep team members aligned with the big picture.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Strategic Challenges of a Corporate Organization?

Strategic challenges of a corporate organization refer to those difficulties that significantly influence the organization’s success towards its goals. Usually, these difficulties are due to the organization’s competitive position relative to other firms providing similar products or services.

What Is the Most Critical Challenge Facing Strategic Planning Managers in Any Company?

Transformation managers are saddled with the responsibility of directing the firm through its transformative phase. As a result, they are faced with the problems of gaining the buy-in of team members, tracking program and project status and evaluating/appraisal of transformational management activities.

Why Is Implementing Change in Business Challenging?

Implementing business change is challenging because of its dynamic components, such as people and project management, which are difficult to control. Implementing change requires the total commitment of all organization members through a profound understanding of the factors necessary for organizational transformation. 

Final Thoughts

Although strategic planning is difficult, it is not an organizational impossibility. Therefore, understanding its relevance in enhancing the management functions of an organization, including resource allocation and improved service and product delivery, makes the process easier for the planning committee.