Everyone in business wants to demonstrate their added value, and the overuse of the word “strategic” has exploded as a result. Do you know any consultants who don’t claim to be strategic? Most professional communicators now claim to practice “strategic communications”. Web sites are not endowed with content plans, but content strategies. Many of professional associations take “strategic planning” as their standard for best practice. And so on.
But what if it doesn’t actually exist? And what if planning and strategy are actually opposed to one another?
Henry Mintzberg, one of the most preeminent scholars of business management, makes exactly this claim in his 1994 work The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning: Reconceiving the Roles for Planning, Plans, Planners.
He backs up his argument with well documented empirical data that strategic planning doesn’t work. He also wonders why Western capitalism remains so enamoured of the very concept it despised as embodied by political capitalism and the planned economy.
In a nutshell, he claims that strategy is a creative process of adaptation, whereas planning is a rigid and inexorable process of control and compartimentalization. They are at cross-purposes.
Clearly, some mix of the two is necessary for organizations to survive and thrive, but they should not be confused as they often are today. And it needs to be understood that since planning is an extrapolation of the past and present towards the future, it works against change, even when change is necessary.