In reflecting upon why less than 50% of privately held firms have a strategic plan, it became obvious that a number of different concerns are weighing on the minds of business owners. Regardless of the reason, it is important to bring to the forefront, such that it can be addressed.
Fear #1: Fear of being intimidated and overwhelmed by the strategic planning process. Many business owners and leaders have a pre-conceived idea of what strategic planning is and fear that the process of strategic planning will be too overwhelming for them. Therefore, they feel intimidated by the process and do not want to even start.
Fear #2: Fear of repeated past bad experiences with strategic planning. Business leaders may have had some extremely negative and possibly harmful experiences with strategic planning in the past. They may have worked with a third party who did not fulfill their needs. Maybe they spent weeks in meetings without accomplishing what they had expected. Or maybe they launched a plan without proper alignment and accountability.
Fear #3: Fear of the time commitment to develop a strategic plan. Many businesses do not have the infrastructure to dedicate the resources given other competing priorities. They want to keep working “in the business” but avoid working “on the business.” And this translates to a basic fear that if they divert time to strategic planning, the business will suffer.
Fear #4: Fear of the practicality in applying to the real world. Many owners are distrustful of theories, systems, generalizations and assertions. There is the fear of “this is fine in theory but I does not work in the real world.”
Fear #5: Fear of the facilitation process. The most effective strategic planning meetings use the skills of a professional facilitator. Some owners have concerns that these meetings, no matter how well intended, will end up being unproductive or take way too long to get anything of value accomplished.
Fear #6: Fear of commitment. A benefit of strategic planning is that it leads to decisive action. In a number of companies, the owner may feel intimidated by the reality of implementing agreed upon actions. The saying of “be careful for what you wish for” can create apprehension and rationalizing how to put things off for another time.
Fear #7: Fear of accountability. A large number of business owners are only accountable to themselves and many times that really means they are “not accountable to anyone.” With strategic planning, there is a system of accountability built into the plan and this causes some real distress as other stakeholders have visibility and expectations have been set.
Fear #8: Fear of failure. The cost of failure is high and the personal risks are great. In large companies, the management is really dealing with someone else’s money. In smaller businesses, one’s livelihood is at stake. A winning strategic plan could help the entrepreneur realize their dream, but a losing plan could wipe out a legacy of accomplishment.
Fear #9: Fear of the cost of strategic planning. This fear arises when there is no strategic thinking used to look at the value of the planning process compared to the cost. Fear also arises when strategic planning is viewed as an expense rather than as an investment.
Fear #10: Fear of discomfort and confrontation during the strategic planning process. Many owners and leaders are uncomfortable with the perceived “confrontations” that might arise in implementing a plan of this nature. As a result, they go to great lengths to avoid them.