What Most Brands Miss in Their Strategic Plan

Brand Career Booster Newsletter

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With most brands wrapping up 2023 planning, I want to address a common mistake that I see in many strategic plans (a.k. the brand plan). Whether you are writing a long-term strat plan for the very first time, or even if you’ve written them numerous times, you’re sure to learn a new trick here today…

Although I hesitate to call it a trick—it’s a really powerful technique that creates clarity and alignment among your senior stakeholders. Unfortunately, too few strategic plans use this technique.

But First

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The Problem With Most Strategic Plans

Open up ten different strat plan documents and probably nine of them will use a traditional OGSM format (objectives, goals, strategies, measures) or something similar. While the OGSM template is relatively easy to fill out and understand, it has a couple of drawbacks that I’m not a fan of.

First, OGSMs tend to be vague. Most plans are written at such a high level, that they actually provide very little direction in terms of appropriate business action. This leads to everything under the sun becoming an acceptable project, as anyone could make an argument that their pet project fits under one of the listed strategies. Think strategies like, “win at shelf”, or “innovate”.

Second, most OGSMs do a poor job of forcing you to focus on the best strategies. There’s a big leap from the objectives to the strategies, with little real examination of what the individual strategies are meant to solve for.

While each of these problems deserve their own lesson, I’m addressing the second issue today. You’ll learn how to choose the right strategies, which actually starts with choosing the right key business issues.

What Most Brands Miss in Their Strategic Plans

The short answer: they haven’t thought enough about the right key business issues to address. Some of this comes from laziness with objectives. If your objective is something like grow sales, then that doesn’t tell you much about how to grow your business. So the first step is choosing a clear vision for what the future of the brand looks like. Again, specifics matter.

But if you have a clear vision, then the very next thing to sort out before strategies is:

What key issues do we need to overcome in order to achieve our vision?

If you and your team can agree on the key issues first, then a couple of really important things will happen:

  1. The strategic choices become obvious, therefore the strategies become obvious.
  2. The strategies become easy to agree to, meaning your team aligns quickly because you’ve already agreed on the most important problems to solve.

Do not underestimate the power of those two things working in your favor.

And that’s the exact reason why I’m not a fan of the traditional OGSM. The template I recommend has an additional column before strategies where you literally write in the key issues to address.

You are forced to document the key issues. Everyone sees them, and they scream loudly what your strategies should be. Everyone gets it.

A Quick Video Lesson on Selecting Key Issues

We recently published a sample video lesson on this topic, taken from one of our live workshops. You can check it out on our blog here along with a written transcript.

Part of being a strategist is learning to ask the right questions. And I hope this newsletter and video help you do just that.

For more in-depth training, check out our course on How to Write a Strategic Plan and get motivated to lead and produce great strategic work!

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