Strategic Planning: Or the lack thereof

In one of my LinkedIn groups James asked*

Years ago, companies got rid of their Strategic Planners at both the customer and vendor organizations. This was a huge mistake and you can see it as most companies lack a strategic insight and are not thinking at all about long-range strategies. Your perspective?

Marine Institute Ireland, Strategic_Planning_S...

Marine Institute Ireland, Strategic_Planning_Symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I fully agree with the comment, perhaps we need to ask ourselves the reason for the decisions to eliminate this role, and how are companies coping without really understanding strategic development? In my own case I have seen how a company has eliminated most if not all of their strategic development and marketing teams, replacing this functions with “sales oriented” positions (very short-term expectations). The names remained (there were Strategic Business Development Managers, and Marketing Managers) but their functions were relegated to create Powerpoint presentations, and show up wherever a “corporate specialist” was needed to help close a sale.

As you can imagine after just a couple of years of this practice, nobody even remembers how to do strategic planning, or long term forecasting, and the company has to “restate” every quarter their expectations and budgets, since they are originally made on a whim. I held both positions in the company (marketing manager, and business manager) and remember that people looked at me silly when I was asked to help forecast the next year projections and I asked for the previous 5 years data to study it. I was directly told “we don’t have enough computer storage space or power to keep the previous years data, we only have the previous 12 months”..

Strategic Planning, Marketing, Advertising, and Sales

Marketing Strategies. Courtesy of tweakyourbiz.com

Marketing Strategies. Courtesy of tweakyourbiz.com

Sadly the same decision to eliminate strategic planning, is in effect in regards to the powerful marketing position. Seems that executives in many companies do not even understand the basic differences between marketing, advertising, and sales, and as with strategic planning, anything that is not “sales related” simply disappears as a valid role within the companies. It seems that the only companies that may understand strategic planning, market research, advertising, and sales, are relegated to the long term successful automotive (Toyota, Mercedes, etc), distribution (Wal-Mart), and food and beverages (Budweiser, Kraft, etc), where companies understand that in order to survive and prosper they must look beyond the next 3 month results.

Still, when every single competitor seems to be doing the same, and everybody is on the same boat, it does not looks too bad for them on the short term (on the long term the company has dropped from industry leader to barely a huge footnote on the stock market). It seems that in today’s corporate structure, there is either a need to cut every position that is not directly related to sales, or that any position that asks difficult questions it’s “questioned”  and potentially found not essential in future plans.

*Lack of Strategic Planners at Many Companies
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