Last month I attended the Association for Strategic Planning (ASP) national meeting in Tysons, VA outside of Washington, DC. ASP is a national organization comprised of strategists from all sectors: corporate, non-profit, and government.
The overall theme of the meeting was “Global Challenges, Global Solutions.” Among the keynote speakers were William Eggers, Global Director of Public Sector Research at Deloitte and Bill Besselman, Head of Strategy for athletic wear company Under Armour. There were also a number of interesting and engaging breakout sessions, divided by sector into government, non-profit and private sector tracks.
Based on the keynotes, breakout sessions, and conversations with participants and presenters between sessions and at meals, a few common threads came to the fore:
- The need for public sector organizations to consider new strategies in the face of global trends that are radically changing societies and their expectations of government. William Eggers talked about the trends reshaping government, including technology and demographic shifts, and how governments are looking to adopt consumer-centric models from the private sector in an effort to be more responsive to citizen issues.
- Several breakout sessions addressed changes in strategic planning to an ongoing process, integrated into regular organizational operations, rather than a once a year, check-the-box exercise. Achieving ambitious company financial metrics requires continuous adjustment of strategic objectives and close coordination with other business functions, such as Sales, Marketing and Product Management.
- A relative lack of accounting for external variables and influences in strategic planning. I heard this across the board, from participants in both private and public sector organizations. Strategy groups tended to be very inwardly focused in their planning processes, rarely considering how competitor, market, regulatory, economic and other external forces could affect goals and objectives. There was a general recognition that external factors needed more consideration in this process, but by and large most participants said their organizations did not engage in this kind of work.
This last issue speaks to a significant and ongoing need to better integrate strategy and intelligence across all sectors. When strategic planning groups don’t work with their intelligence teams (or don’t have an intelligence team to work with) to understand the potential impact of external forces on their organizations, they risk being blindsided by those forces. This integration is even more critical as strategic planning shifts to closer coordination with other business functions.