I’m what you call a “big picture” person. I guess I have always been a strategic thinker. And, I first learned and became passionate about strategic planning while I was serving as a commanding officer of a military combat unit.
Most military forces, and definitely the top ones, teach and practice strategic planning on a regular basis. In fact, most armies teach the strategic planning doctrine in their officer academies. These methods and tactics are the results of the cumulative experience and lessons of hundreds of years of wars, and combat operations.
The Military Planning Process
These battle plans start with a clear statement of purpose. Why are we embarking on this operation? Also, they have specific and measurable goals and objectives (targets).
The planning process itself typically includes a comprehensive analysis of the enemy, terrain, and weather. In addition, you do a similar analysis to objectively assess your own forces and capabilities. This includes a careful estimation of schedule and resources requirements. Also, there is a thorough analysis of the main risks. And, throughout the whole process, key assumptions are recorded.
Each plan is then carefully reviewed and scrutinized by the commanding officer. Finally, the best battle plan option is chosen and communicated to all participating soldiers.
In a high-caliber, well trained military unit, you will never go to any operation, be it combat, rescue, aid, or otherwise, without first developing and approving your plan. They might call it a battle plan, or operation plan, and yet it’s a strategic plan.
Planning as a Business Culture
However, this important habit is not yet commonplace in the business world. Despite many great books, hundreds of excellent articles, and countless hours of research on this topic. It’s shocking to see companies, startups as well as Fortune 1000, embark on new ventures and projects without a decent plan.
It seems obvious why the military is taking this approach. Their dealing in life and death situations. A mistake caused by a bad plan, lack of information, or wrong assumptions, can result in people losing their lives.
True. No one lost his life developing a new product without a clear plan. And yet, companies lose millions of dollars, and people lose their jobs every day due to poor planning. That is a good enough motivation to start doing strategic planning right and often.
In conclusion, strategic thinking and planning should be a continuous activity. A company habit.