Strategic Planning Done Right | Overcoming Common Pitfalls

Strategic planning is crucial for organizations seeking clarity and alignment in their pursuit of success. However, statistics reveal that many strategic plans fail to launch fully. This article explores eight critical pitfalls organizations MUST avoid creating and implement a successful strategic plan.


Pitfall #1: Lack of Understanding of Ownership's Desires

Understanding the core motivations behind a business and the desired outcomes of its owners is vital for effective strategic planning. Transparent discussions among business leaders about their purpose ensure alignment and prevent deviations from the original intent. Understanding the business's purpose from the ownership's vantage point is crucial to building and implementing a solid strategic plan.

Pitfall #2: Ineffective Interpersonal Behaviors

Leaders must adapt and shed certain behaviors to embrace new leadership skills as they advance. In strategic planning, leaders must recognize how their behaviors may impede the team's ability to create and execute a successful plan. Marshall Goldsmith's book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, provides valuable insights into this process. Leaders need to evolve into influential developers of people, shifting from being the most intelligent person in the room to asking great questions that empower their team members. This shift in approach fosters a collaborative and innovative environment during strategic planning.

Pitfall #3: Absence of Agreed-Upon Purposes

Solid and unified mission, vision, and value statements function as guiding principles, providing purpose, direction, and behavioral guidelines. Align these foundational elements to avoid organizational misalignment and significant challenges.

Pitfall #4: Inadequate Understanding of Internal and External Landscapes

Effective strategic plans comprehensively understand an organization's internal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A solid SWOT analysis achieves this. By finding these factors, leaders can uncover competitive advantages, often referred to as "X-Factors," which form the foundation of a robust strategic plan. Unearthing this information ensures that the plan is well-informed and tailored to the organization's context.

Pitfall #5: Lack of a Unified Leadership Team with Effective Communication

Successful strategic planning relies on a united leadership team that leverages individual strengths and communicates effectively. Understanding team members' behavioral styles and motivators enhance communication and builds trust, fostering a more cohesive and effective team.

Pitfall #6: Failure to Create a Workable Plan

Effective plans require concrete, measurable action steps. The OGTM framework (Objectives, Goals, Tactics, and Measurements) provides a structured approach to developing ambitious objectives, aligned goals, detailed tactics, and specific measurements. Regular assessment and necessary adjustments ensure progress toward the plan's goals.

Pitfall #7: Inadequate Implementation Planning and Lack of a Strategic Planning Champion

Successful plan implementation demands intentionality, consistency, clear communication, and accountability. Setting up meeting schedules, accountability plans, and rollout strategies during the planning phase is crucial. Involving the entire organization and aligning individual roles and teams with objectives creates a sense of ownership and alignment.

Pitfall #8: Neglecting Plan Review and Accountability

To maintain momentum, reviewing the plan regularly and holding team members accountable is essential. Regular check-ins with an internal champion and an external coach promote accountability and improve the chances of success. Monthly champion check-ins and quarterly team check-ins ensure that the plan stays on course and effectively addresses emerging challenges.


By actively addressing these pitfalls, organizations can enhance their strategic planning process. Understanding ownership desires, practicing effective interpersonal behaviors, aligning on purposes, comprehending internal and external landscapes, fostering unified leadership teams, creating workable plans, structuring implementation, and establishing accountability are critical steps to delivering results and driving organizational growth.


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Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice, but merely informed opinion or general information meant for no particular purpose. Issues addressed in this article often implicate federal, state, and local labor and employment laws. This article is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. Readers should consult labor and employment counsel to determine whether their policies, procedures, decisions, or courses of action comply with such laws.

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