Many experts have outlined, through various vocabularies, the importance of strategic planning, and its value in efficiently utilizing resources at hand, especially at an organization level. Simply put, strategic planning is a management tool that serves the purpose of helping an organization do a better job with the resources at hand, and accounting for external factors.
However, while the issue of strategic planning has mostly been viewed in an organizational light, there is an element of national priority to it. After all, planning, more specifically, strategic planning is a multifaceted and cross-cutting undertaking and it plays an important role in shaping country's (especially developing countries) development goals and priorities. It is a tool that is important to shape and accelerate development goals of a nation.
Planning is about coming up with well-researched and well-reasoned plans that prioritize and synchronize activities, which makes it important given the scarce resource at the disposal of developing countries.
So, considering this dimension, and the fact that strategic planning, as a concept, deals with optimally utilizing resources at the disposal of developing countries, it is vital the implications it has not only on the country's organizations, but also on the country’s national planning as well.
In the highly competitive globalized world we live in, and especially considering the limited resources that exists to fend off national challenges, and bring about sustainable development, governments at developing countries must come up and design efficient and effective plans.
Dereje Tekle, an Expert and Lecturer at International Leadership Institute, says that generally speaking, “we, as a country are far from developing strategic development through participation; there is no participation at all.” He adds that some companies do it, and some do not. “We are far from implementing it. We are far even from organizing strategic plan.”
Explaining if it has anything to do with the organizational behavior of the country, he mentions that the organizational culture of the country is far from being able to attach or relate or correlate people to come together and think about organizational missions.
He says that many organizations have the consistent, problematic tendency to unwittingly sacrifice long-term plans in order to get immediate results. Strategic planning (and the ability to think in a strategic manner) is often expected only from executives and senior managers, and only in relation to setting annual budgets for tactical operations.
However, today’s business environment requires that every member of the organization not only add tactical value but be strategically relevant in order for the organization to create economic value. Each person must develop his own strategic thinking and be willing to take his performance to the next level.
According to Dereje, the first cause for inappropriate application of strategic plan come from absence of employees participation in producing the strategic document. Appropriate implementation of SP is ensured when participation of the employees in formulating the strategic document of their own sections is possible, he says.
The second problem is some strategic plans are organized emotionally without considering the capacity of the implementing organization. Before formulating the plan any organization should know where it is now. “One organization I contacted with had a plan to attain certain vision by 2020 written in a dynamic language; but when I asked them where they are now and how they came about (calculate) to that vision, they had no idea.” That is why I believe before proceeding the implementation, any organization should know its capacity and ensure whether it secures the necessary resources.
Another thing Dereje point out for lack of application of strategic planning in Ethiopia is lack of appropriate monitoring and evaluation scheme. “Monitoring and evaluation ensures the implementation of Strategic Planning and could disseminate the skill of monitoring and evaluation for employees so as to check and control their own sections.”
He adds that although evaluation is a continuous assessment done from the beginning of the formulation of a plan, many organizations in Ethiopia tend to do it very sporadically sometimes done by ministerial offices or by adhoc committees.
Furthermore, he said another problem that consumes the time and resource of the strategic move is the unchecked and sudden instructions coming from the upper authorities as first priority. In other words, when a sudden problems appear, the upper authorities mostly chose to 'put out fire' first even if that measure means undermining the already in place strategic plan of the institution.
He indicates that all activities of the organization shall be incorporated in the Strategic Planning and when unusual orders appear they must not overrun the formal track of the plan. “The management should protect the normal implementation of the Strategic Plan for the achievement of the desired objectives.”
All in all, considering that strategic thinking focuses on the ability of individuals and teams to contribute and add distinctive value to the corporate strategy, he concludes that strategic thinking shall be designed to sustain helpful skills long-term to produce positive, bottom-line results.
BY ROBEL YOHANNES