Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Wall Street Journal op-ed: Why ‘Strategic Plans’ Are Rarely Strategic—or Effective, by Wyatt Wells (Auburn University):
Auburn University at Montgomery, where I teach, recently completed a common organizational ritual: It drafted a strategic plan. The process took months and entailed work by a variety of committees, at considerable expense. When it was completed, faculty and staff applauded. Then most, on returning to their offices, promptly consigned the new document to the trash. In the majority of organizations, workers respond to strategic plans with the same cynicism, nodding and smiling in public while sighing and rolling their eyes in private.
The typical strategic plan begins with an anodyne statement of principles, lists several general goals, and finally recounts a series of initiatives that the institution will undertake to realize these objectives. In its statement of principles, AUM’s plan asserts that the university seeks to “provide quality and diverse educational opportunities,” offering a “student-centered experience” with “excellence as our standard.” These are more specific than Google’s old mantra, “Don’t be evil,” but not much. Presumably every institution of higher learning shares these goals—none would boast that “adequacy is our standard.” ...
Strategic planning, the way it’s practiced by most institutions in the U.S., is a fraud. At its best, it’s little more than a public-relations exercise, stating what people in the organization already know. Good managers can usually list their goals on a note card and explain how they intend to achieve them on a few sheets of paper. They have a plan and so have no need of planning. Strategic planning merely offers incompetent managers a shield, hiding their lack of understanding and direction under a blanket of orotund verbiage.