Why Do So Many Strategic Plans Fail?

I recently undertook the great task of building my 2 year old son a massive train table. This was my first time building anything like this. There were several steps involved and the entire project was stretched over 3 weeks, much of which was investigation and preparation. My wife and I spent hours working on the design and layout of the track. She was focusing on the little details and was keen on creating a realistic and believable layout. I on the other hand was focused on the big picture and felt that the strategic placement of a river or overpass was of no consequence. As we went through this experience I was reminded that we as individuals have an innate drive toward discovery and creation. Several times during this entire process we had to remind ourselves who we were building this table for.

Rylans train table
My son and I enjoying his new train table

So often when we begin the daunting task of mapping out our long-term successful future, we forget to recognize who it is we are building the future for. I’ve sat in strategy sessions where the majority of time is spent on debating the fine details of implementation before ever considering the destination. This is why so many strategic plans fail.

When my wife and I stopped our back and forth about where the tracks should go, where the holes in the table should be, and whether we should try to use every piece of track and accessory available, we remembered the real purpose of our efforts (our destination), which was to capture the imagination of our toddler. Then, we were able to make better decisions moving forward.

The next time you meet with your team to discuss and implement strategic initiatives, begin with the end in mind. You may be thinking you do this already, and for those that actually do, your organization will continue to thrive. However, for many of us the focus is often on how the future looks from our perspective rather than the perspective of those who will actually inherit that future space.

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