The main point I took away from this week’s reading was: Strategic Thinking Good, Strategic Planning bad. The article entitled “Leadership and Organizational Strategy” by Fairholm made a clear distinction between Strategic Thinking and Strategic Planning. The key difference is the specific space made for innovation by Thinking which is absent from Planning. The article quotes Mintzberg, who I think says it best when he describes planning as programming, breaking down problems into steps and working through them. I can actually understand the attractiveness of this. It’s always easier just to follow a set of instructions than it is to come up with creative solutions on the spot. Thinking acknowledges unpredictability and the importance of creativity for coming up with solutions. At base, it seems to be a way of dealing with chaos.
The examples given in Mott and Stephan seem to outline the effects of Planning and Thinking respectively. Planning Strategically and Strategic Planning describes a situation in a library which ultimately did not work out. There was a focus on distinct steps of the plan as opposed to working towards a mission. It’s emphasis on formality meant too much time was spent working out what the plan should be, time that could have been better spent on other tasks. An attempt was made to create a plan that covered every eventuality. This is not the true purpose of a Strategic Plan.
Strategic Planning on the Fast Track was less critical of planning, acknowledging it had its place, but making it clear that Thinking needed to be incorporated to make it work. Here there was a strong emphasis on mission and values, offering a general goal to work for as opposed to rigid steps to follow. This, I think, is the true purpose of the strategic plan.