The strategic management process is the final stage of the formal strategic planning process. It reconnects the strategic planning with the ongoing management processes of the organization.
Peter Drucker said "Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work."
The strategic management process of executing the strategic plan, and monitoring results of this work of implementing strategy, need to be embedded in a robust system for managing ongoing operations, as well as specific developmental or strategic projects.
Seeing how the strategic management process fits into the normal management process helps clarify managerial accountability for strategy implementation.
Without a robust system for strategic management, or clear strategic management process, strategic planning implementation can lead to frustration and disenchantment with the strategic planning process itself. This undermines the best efforts and intentions of managers, and may even engender cynicism about strategic planning processes in the future.
The strategic management process is an integral part of overall managerial accountability for senior managers.
Strategic plan implementation is more likely to be effective when the strategic planning process takes account of strategy implementation requirements from the beginning. One key to this is having the right people involved in the process, and especially as we have seen elsewhere on this site, during the SWOT analysis workshops.
Therefore strategic planning and the strategic management process must be seen as part of the larger whole of the management accountability in an organisation. Part of the top leadership accountability includes strategic planning. Business management especially must include clear delegation for specific aspects of the strategic management process or strategy implementation.
For more on the meaning of strategic planning see - What is Strategic Management?
While simply-strategic-planning.com is not primarily about general management, in order to improve the strategic management process and the success of strategy implementation it helps to place our material in a simple management system framework. We will use a management system which has been so purged of inessentials that it is only just workable - take away one more part and it would fail to function. It is as simple and elementary a management system as one can possibly design.
The barest description of what managers do boils down to this. Managers decide what is to be done, how it should be done, issue instructions to those accountable to them as to results required, and then monitor that the results are being achieved. We can depict this simple four stage process as follows-
These four parts are linked together in the order in which they are listed above. A manager must decide what is to be done before deciding how to do it, and must know how it is to be done before giving instructions to deploy resources, and must give instructions before checking results.
Depending on what results they find when checking results, the manager can adjust earlier stages, or even start the process over again if necessary.
Let me make a final point. The managers do not just 'do it'!
They are charged with achieving outputs and outcomes through others. And it is an inherent part of the accountability of the manager to lead these others in such a way that the team is able to sustain their ability to achieve the outputs. So the way in which the team is engaged at each of the stages of the managerial process is vital to the success of the team in doing this.
This gives us a fifth and final element in our minimalist management system, viz., the engagement and sustainment of the team through which the results are to be achieved.
These are the basic elements of management in the minimalist system we need to understand the role of managers in the strategic management process.
Before we go further in applying this understanding of the management process to the strategic management process, I'd like to make a comment on management and leadership.
One can define a manager as a person in a role in which he or she can be held accountable not only for his or her personal effectiveness at any tasks delegated to them by someone in authority above them, but also for the outputs of others.
Further a manager is accountable for building and sustaining an effective team of those accountable to them; a team capable of producing those outputs. Moreover, the manager is responsible for exercising effective leadership.
There is so much nonsense talked about leadership and management. Management is often depicted as the cold issuing of administrative edicts usually in some authoritarian fashion. In contrast leadership is portrayed as some special gift or charisma, engendering fervent followership.
Leadership is simply the accountability in managerial roles to influence one or more others in their teams to accept willingly the purpose and specific objectives, and to move cooperatively with the leaders and each other to achieve these agreed outcomes.
All managers, regardless of the specific outputs they are accountable for, have common accountabilities for leading and sustaining the team, managing resources available, and complying with relevant policies and systems in use in that organization.
It is pointless to engage in debates over whether leadership or management is more important or valuable to an organisation. It is as nonsensical as asking whether the thickness and colour of a piece of material is more important than the material. You cannot have an object without its properties. Leadership is a property or an aspect of a role.
Returning to the strategic management process, we can see that the five stages of the general management process are reflected in the systematic strategic planning process we advocate.
The design of this corporate strategic planning process will have ensured that the broad strategic ideas that will have now emerged are all highly relevant to the company's overall strategic situation. The team can be reasonably sure that, providing they honestly face the truth about their organisation in the previous stages, the general strategic direction they have now chosen will be relevant to their needs.
However, they have not so far made any detailed calculations to demonstrate that these strategies will be powerful enough to lift the enterprise's performance up to, and even beyond, the satisfactory target level (Tsat) they chose in Stage 2; they do not know what might happen to their organization if, having decided the proposed strategies, one of the threats or opportunities they expected to occur either occurred in a different form or not at all.
They do not know how anchored in reality their decisions are.
They do not know if the strategies are really practical; they do not know if they have the resources of money, management and skills to carry them out; they do not know how long it will all take.
So much more that they need to know!
The planning team will have completed the most significant and creative part of their work when the strategies appear after all the analytical work that went before. However, they still have three more tasks to perform:
Remember how Peter Drucker put it: "Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work."
By the very nature of strategic issues and strategies to address them, the strategic management process of implementing the strategies involves significant organisational change. So the managers are, in addition to carrying their normal operational management responsibilities also leading change processes. This involves its own considerations that need to be taken into account, especially impacts on changing accountabilities, training requirements, and redeployment of staff and other resources.
Here most chief executives prefer to hand the detailed work over to their executive team leaving the strategic planning team merely to supervise and co-ordinate all this activity of embedding strategic and development responsibilities into the normal performance management system.
The business planning process is the most appropriate device for summarizing all the strategic consequences for the organization as a whole. This enables a coherent setting out of all the resources implications, and provides a basis for seeking funds to carry out all that is required, whether as an internal budget request, or in the form of investment or loan funds from outside the enterprise.
When the preliminary work of ensuring that the strategies are realistic enough to be resourced and implemented, the time is right. Right for what? Or should that be 'write' what? Write strategic plan! The strategic plan should be written up in a form that can be approved by the governing body of the organisation, and then used as a clear reference for documenting all the other necessary types of plans that will flow from and be governed by the strategic plan.
Finally the planning team must ensure there is a monitoring process, the importance of which should not be underestimated. Not only does it permit the team to follow the progress of their strategies; and provide a mechanism for alerting them when the strategies require revision, it also tells them when to restart the entire corporate strategic planning process again - hopefully not for several years.
Various schemes are available for this purpose, including special purpose software that can drive executive dashboard reporting schemes or frameworks like the balanced scorecard.
The monitoring stage is not just the final stepping-stone in the strategic planning process, it is also the first in the next stage to strategic management' where a team of executives continually act as corporate planners for their organization, constantly scanning the environment for new trends and events, continually thinking about the long-term future direction for their organization.
For a useful overview of strategy implementation see this article.
Sign up for our Newsletter -
StratXtra provides updates on what is happening here at the website, and comment on current issues in strategic planning.