The demise of long-range planning

I was schooled in the practice of “long-range planning” in the late 20th century that called on organizations to plan 5, 10, and 20 years out.  We actually sat in board rooms in the 1990’s, planning for 2020–that far off reality in a new century (oh, the humor and hubris of thinking we could wrap our head around a reality so far off!).  Frequently, major decisions were relegated to the annual strategic planning event that took managers and leaders out of their context, created turf battles for expected budgetary implications, and silo-ed the decision making away from the contextual realities of new pressures from the community and culture, and immediate changes in resources.   The results of the long range planning were proudly bound in a beautifully prepared binder, never to be referred to again.

In today’s context, planning and decision making needs to be continuous, nimble and able to pivot with changes in culture, attitudes and, unfortunately, a simple tweet.   I try to study and learn from large companies and small non-profits that are learning what this new expression of strategic planning looks like. One thing is sure….it looks differently for different organizations, rather than being a one-size-fits-all methodology.  Nonetheless, there seems to be some best practices associated with each contextual methodology:  decision-making is taught and valued, organizational learning is on-going, “global” thinking is more important than silo-ed protection, strategic planning is continuous rather than annual, and reviews are about outcomes.  Overall, planning is driven by issues rather than by units within the organization.

What are the implications for the decision-making leader in these new days of planning?

1. Be deliberate and intentional about the decisions I make and how I make them,

2. Check my own assumptions and biases which drag me back to the familiar, and

3.  Be intentional about learning more about continuous issues-focused planning and how different it is from traditional strategic planning.



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