SHNIDER: Strategic planning: Who is kidding whom?

Neil Shnider, special projects consultant at the Small Business Development Center of Florida Gulf Coast University.

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Neil Shnider, special projects consultant at the Small Business Development Center of Florida Gulf Coast University.

The biggest buzz words in any business today are “strategic planning.”

This includes both for-profit and not-for-profit entities.

One can find hundreds of articles written on the topic. What do businesses really mean? Strategy is typically used to define a company’s direction and allocating resources to pursue that particular course of action.

What I see happening in most companies is that everything becomes strategic. The word is used so much that it has no meaning. I use the word in terms of a well thought out idea for direction in the areas of short, intermediate and long term planning.

Strategic planning can be as narrow as one department to as broad as the entire company. Strategic planning is a process that organizations should go through.

The issue I have with strategic planning is that companies spend a great deal of resources, time and money, on either contracting with a company to take them through the process or do it internally and, at the end of the day, they are back where they started.

All of the key players are really excited to get started and are even engaged throughout the process. Where does it cave in? Prior to this point it was just conversation, talk and rhetoric. They realize that to implement, change really has to occur. The key players now know if the new process is to work their roles, responsibilities, activities and positions are threatened-they may change.

With the immediate threat of the above, we now have a stalemate. Each key employee becomes very protective of his or her territory and are threatened by the suggested change.

We also see where some of the players’ skill sets do not meet the required needs of the new direction and transformation of the company but they are longtime members of the management team.

A bigger issue are the “sacred cows.” These are the employees that can’t be touched for one reason or another. Either they are owners, relatives or college buddies that have a close relationship with management. They may refuse to take on different jobs, responsibilities, etc. Now what does the company do? Typically, this prolongs the process and even puts an end to its movement.

Yes, strategic planning is a great tool to understand and move a company forward but, I see too many companies that go through this process and fail. It does not have to fail but the implementation part is key to its success.

I am all for the process and believe it is very healthy for a company to engage and frequently evaluate what is good and what is not working, but I am also a believer that at the start, the protected employees and the issues of territory ownership must be dealt with before the party begins.

It is easy to preach and advocate for change but difficult to execute. The outcome, typically results in a compromise to satisfy those protected workers, which is not the best business decision for the company.

This may put the company at a disadvantage for opportunities, growth and competitiveness but, it is accepted and well rationalized. Let our team help you through this process and identify the issues. There really is no nonsense to the process — just common sense.

Contact me if you need direction in these areas.

Neil Shnider, MBA, CPA, is a special projects consultant that focuses on business growth through finding new markets and new products/services, increasing profits and trimming costs, for the Small Business Development Center at Florida Gulf Coast University. He can be reached at the SBDC center or at nshnider@theshnidergroup.com Go to www.theshnidergroup.com for more small business information and tools.

The SBDC provides small business consultants, at no cost, to guide you through many of the business processes. These are experienced professionals who are working to benefit small businesses. The service is free. Call 239-745-3700 for an appointment.

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