Strategy & Leadership

Strategic Planning vs. Quick Wins: A Difficult Choice

Conceptually, it is easier to appease management by providing them with a series of “quick wins” than it is to make them wait to see the results of a more complicated, longer-term strategic planning effort. But the organization will build its future on the foundation of the strategic plan — not on an aggregation of quick wins and temporary fixes.

The concepts of quick wins and strategic planning generally lie at opposite ends of the tactical spectrum. But in a more pragmatic business world, both must be executed together in order for management to continue to see that something measurable is getting done.

Further complicating the general acceptance and use of strategic planning is the ongoing need for corporate-wide buy-in at all levels to ensure that the corporate planners are not the only ones in the organization marching to the strategic planning drumbeat. Without this enterprise-wide buy-in, the company will be doomed to move from one attempted quick win to another — some working, some not — until so much time has gone by that an effective plan could have been designed, refined and rolled out in the interim.

A Solid Strategy Isn’t Patched Together With Duct Tape

Focusing on quick wins to the exclusion of any real strategic planning will only lead to dissonance and disharmony within an organization whose senior management may already be torn between two opposite approaches to growing a business.

Even in an environment where all the departments within an organization agree to move forward with a strategic planning effort, there must be complete coordination between each of the respective planning teams and company management. While each team may have its own mission, agenda — and, most importantly, perceptions of what the ultimate plan should be — they must all be moving in sync with one another for the process to work. In too many cases, there may be a disconnect among the key groups’ expectations of the plan: What should be done first, next and last? When it should be done? What should each group’s roles within the process be?

Focusing on quick wins to the exclusion of any real strategic planning will only lead to dissonance and disharmony within an organization whose senior management may already be torn between two opposite approaches to growing a business.

Admittedly, quick wins may — and should — also be included in the strategic planning process, but only as they contribute to the overall success of the plan. This is often made more difficult in situations where management is still focusing on more finite items such as improving customer satisfaction, enhancing the bottom line or gaining more customers, rather than on the more operationally- and organizationally-defined areas that typically lie behind these desired outcomes (i.e., quicker response times, improved process flows, better communications and business process reengineering).

Getting Strategic About the ‘Quick Win’

Still, each of the departmental planning teams should be both knowledgeable enough, and empowered enough, to suggest areas where quick wins and strategic planning can be orchestrated together. In many organizations, key individuals and teams are often loaded with suggestions and observations that will ultimately — and perhaps quickly — uncover important quick wins that can be integrated into a more formal planning process.

One of the added benefits of having individuals and teams generate their own prioritized lists of potential quick wins is that it allows for an implicit, rather than a forced, buy-in from each group. They will have automatically bought-in to the planning process because it was their initiative in identifying these areas in the first place, not dictated or mandated to them from management.

All of these quick wins must be fully defined, including desired goals, anticipated outcomes andbenefits, projected time frame for implementation, and resources required. Each of the affected groups within the organization must be made to fully understand how the recommended improvements will make their jobs easier through the implementation of more effective operational processes:

  • Improved customer service tools
  • Better documentation
  • Effective way to measure and track the results of the plan.

Also, a means for reconciling all of the suggested quick wins with the ongoing development and implementation of the strategic plan will be a must.

In many businesses, what the internal planning teams frequently need most is a “shot in the arm” to move forward — the realization that they have the authority and autonomy to identify and cultivate the areas that they believe will have the most positive and visible impact company-wide, the tools that will support their ability to move forward — and a more interactive forum to raise questions, make suggestions and provide feedback.

If your organization fosters the environment for making all of these key things happen, then perhaps the choice between merely going after quick wins and formal strategic planning may not be so difficult to make.

Learn about how ServiceMax can help your company plan and implement here

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