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Harv Bus Rev. 2006 Jan;84(1):76-84, 133.

Stop making plans; start making decisions.

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Marakon Associates, San Francisco, USA.


Many executives have grown skeptical of strategic planning. Is it any wonder? Despite all the time and energy that go into it, strategic planning most often acts as a barrier to good decision making and does little to influence strategy. Strategic planning fails because of two factors: It typically occurs annually, and it focuses on individual business units. As such, the process is completely at odds with the way executives actually make important strategy decisions, which are neither constrained by the calendar nor defined by unit boundaries. Thus, according to a survey of 156 large companies, senior executives often make strategic decisions outside the planning process, in an ad hoc fashion and without rigorous analysis or productive debate. But companies can fix the process if they attack its root problems. A few forward-looking firms have thrown out their calendar-driven, business-unit-focused planning procedures and replaced them with continuous, issues-focused decision making. In doing so, they rely on several basic principles: They separate, but integrate, decision making and plan making. They focus on a few key themes. And they structure strategy reviews to produce real decisions. When companies change the timing and focus of strategic planning, they also change the nature of senior management's discussions about strategy--from "review and approve" to "debate and decide," in which top executives actively think through every major decision and its implications for the company's performance and value. The authors have found that these companies make more than twice as many important strategic decisions per year as companies that follow the traditional planning model.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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