Another thing that’s wrong with most strategic planning

Posted by on Nov 26, 2007 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Henry Mintzberg (pic) is probably the world’s number 1 expert on strategic planning. And its harshest critic.

In his most famous book on the subject, The Rise and Fall of…he upset just about every business guru (and lazy manager) by demonstrating a number of uncomfortable truths:

– there’s no correlation between the quantity and quality of strategic planning and the outcome for the business
– obsessing with forecasting is a waste of time as no forecast is much use for very long or for long range thinking (most forecasts lose their accuracy quite quickly)
– “strategic” staff tends to create unnecessary work and highly political internal focus
– “thinking” separated from the organisation’s key processes is largely ineffectual

I think there’s another one: most strategic planning (including that which marketing, political and advertising folk indulge in) is misguided because it is based on a poor grasp of how things work.

In general management’s case this can be about anything (as Pfeffer illustrates in the companion piece to Mintzberg’s meisterwerk)

In marketing and communications, it tends to be about mass behaviour.

If you don’t understand how that works OR if your model’s assumptions are half-baked then…what chance do you have?

So while the old S King “where are we now, where do we want to go, etc” strategic triangle is all very well but I’d just like us to have a little think about the behaviour we’re trying to change and how it arose (if you don’t get that then how can you hope to change it?)

Maybe “how did they get to do this?”? Don’t bother with anything else til that’s cracked.

What do you think?


  1. Tommi Vilkamo
    November 27, 2007

    I have studied strategy as my major in Helsinki University of Technology, and I have a 5-year experience in doing strategy stuff in Nokia. And I must admit that Mintzberg (along with C.Christensen) has had by far the greatest influence to my thinking related to strategy. Not to mention my decision to switch jobs from a strategic planning team last September 🙂
    Good stuff.

  2. Jamie Gow
    December 24, 2007

    I once spent 6 months at £1000 per day planning (strategically) the real estate requirements for a large pharmaceutical, only for them to inform me that the had lost the patent on several of the largest selling drugs. The outcome…a need to save several billion dollars and my work useless (the company paid a lot of money for my useless work). The message is clear to plan you must have clear and pertinent communication lines with all levels of the business otherwise stop before you begin. are you telling me they forgot the dates that the drugs were coming off patent?