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Strategy vs. Planning: Understanding the Difference in OCM

What’s the difference between strategy and planning?

Have you ever watched a cooking show? The judges sample the prepared dishes. By my guess, 80% of the time, the judges ask, “Did you add salt?” 

Salt: your doctor may not like it, but it certainly adds flavor to what you’re cooking. In fact, in ancient times, slabs of salt were so valued that they were used as currency. So, what does salt have to do with strategic planning?  

I like to think of strategy as the key ingredient to the successful adoption of any new ERP. It adds value to planning and can make a significant difference in the final outcome of a project. As such, it shouldn’t be overlooked or ignored but rather prioritized on your pathway to better adoption. 

Strategy vs. Planning 

Strategy and planning may often be interpreted as being the same, but are they? 

Think of strategy as the story of an exciting journey; it explains how you plan to move from today to where you eventually want to end. A strategy outlines how you will overcome challenges, confront vulnerabilities, and leverage all your assets and favorable forces to prevail through the journey (or project) to arrive at your ultimate destination (adoption). 

On the other hand, you can consider your plan as the exact details: who, how, when, or how to achieve a goal or objective. It aligns resources, timing, and expectations, and it has a more limited scope than a strategy. As such, organizations and teams must be mindful about their planning process, keeping it focused and aligned to the details for an efficient and timely execution. 

Adding Strategy to Your Plan 

I have been part of the Organizational Change Management (OCM) community for more than 15 years. During that time, I’ve seen the unfortunate occasion where an OCM strategy has been left out of the implementation plan. Instead of taking time to think strategically about execution, we often see teams jump straight into planning the Statement of Work (SOW) with a mix of deliverables – turning it into a “check-the-box” exercise.  

The SOW includes things like: 

  • Executive Alignment – is your executive team committed to the initiative? While they might say “yes” to check the box, sometimes we see that isn’t always the case. 
  • Training Plan – do you have your training materials or a plan for managing the training? Is the person leading the training, in fact, trained to do so? Is the training continuous, or just another item to check off the list? 
  • Communications Plan – often labeled as change management, this plan is designed to provide a sequence of events or steps for those involved. But, is everyone on board? 
  • Sponsor Roadmap – this includes the sequence of events for the sponsor. Once again, is everyone aligned on the plan? 

While the above items are essential to a SOW for any project implementation, I’ve seen them become check-the-box deliverables for a team that doesn’t take the time to think through strategy when creating their plan. 

Now, let’s add the pinch of salt: strategy. 

At your next project meeting, everyone agrees that the vision needs to be articulated during the executive alignment. You have a plan in place to move forward with implementing the change. Okay, great. But, instead of just checking off the list that “everyone agrees” and moving forward, let’s break that statement down to think more strategically:  

  • How do you know that everyone agrees, and what exactly is it that they agree on? 
  • Is everyone aware of the change coming, and do they understand the impact that the system upgrade will have on daily activity?  
  • Have you taken time to gather employee feedback? If not, how will you do so?  
  • Once you have that feedback, what are you doing with it? Is there a strategy in place to utilize and address feedback? 
  • Once you go live, what does that look like for the organization?  
  • Have you established key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success or progress toward your goal? And is that goal clearly defined to all involved? 

Strategic Preparation

By thinking through the strategy behind your plan, you can rest assured that your team is truly aligned in planning, execution, and adoption.  

Adding strategy to your planning takes your project a step further by allowing your OCM team to ask important questions, gather crucial feedback, and measure and utilize KPIs effectively to ensure a seamless implementation. Further, thinking strategically allows your organization to identify challenges or hurdles that stand in the way of a successful implementation, preparing your team to better adapt and respond.  

As you navigate the pathway to successful adoption, don’t forget to take time to think through your strategy behind your plan – it can make a significant difference for your organizational change management efforts.  

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Tags: Strategy, Change Management