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Strategic planning - it’s not rocket science…

… but maximising opportunities does demand new concepts and ideas

Strategy is complex. In fact it is the competence of complexity, understanding it and making it simple. Not because the users of strategy need it to be made simple for them, but because it is the practice of turning thousands of opportunities into a very limited range of actionable options.

Strategists needs to know what is feasible and to live within the confines of feasibility, while enthusing the organisation to achieve what it once may have thought impossible.

The strategist knows that taking a man to the moon is relatively easy, bringing him back alive is tougher.

A strategy is only a strategy when it can be acted upon. When it can be executed with excellence. When it pulls the organisation together in singular action and single-minded commitment, so that everyone can see the strategy clearly and see their own positive role immediately.

Strategy is the kitchen sink version of rocket science. And the test of how good it is; when they can say with confidence "its not rocket science". 

Yes, strategic planning is pervasive – it informs everything we do – and it is the arbiter of what should and should not be done. It is responsible for unifying all effort and smoothing out every friction. So why can't everyone do it? And why can't everyone who does do it, maintain a high level of achievement?

Partly it is just due to the complexity, but more so it is the ability to encompass operational strength with general management ability – to conceive of direction and understand the limits of functional application. The biggest single ingredient is the one thing that can't be taught – judgement.

Where does sound judgement come from if not from a deep understanding of the content? Strategic planning may be about ordering and structuring thought to set out new and innovative ways to act. But it is vital to know how far the instrument to be played can stretch: to understand the limits of the machine – that is why great performers, although masters of their craft, are also often great strategists. The ability to make it look simple belies the insight and knowledge of the complexities needed to master the execution.

It would appear that it is almost impossible to teach strategy. Many organisations recognise this and actively choose to do without a strategic planning function and, therefore, avoid the need to employ strategists.

But if strategic planners are in short supply, the demand for the strategic plan is growing. Nearly all the observable markets are navigated and civilised. The big planets in the solar system have been mapped and populated by brands.

The new universe is in the unseen worlds of small but highly lucrative markets. This demands new concepts and ideas of what is possible. New ways of discovering needs and deriving solutions.

Most of all, it demands great powers of explanation and narrative to bring the whole organisation on board. So what's new in strategic planning? Now that everyone is a fully paid up rocket scientist, it's time to bring in the particle physicists. That's why strategic planning isn't rocket science.

The Author
Brian Kelly
is Head of Strategy EMEA for Sudler & Hennessey
He can be contacted at:

4th January 2012

From: Sales



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