Found a great article on Businessweek Online written by Keith McFarland about strategic planning. From the article:
Often when I give a speech, I'll ask how many people in the audience work in an organization that has a strategic plan -- and most raise their hands. Then I ask, "How many of you feel that your company's strategic-planning process is useful?" Only a few hands go up -- usually just those belonging to the presidents and CEOs in the room.
Why is this? An audience member once approached me during a break with a colorful opinion: "Strategic planning," he said, "is organizational masturbation. It makes the guy in charge feel good, but it doesn't do much for anyone else."
That's not really how strategic planning was taught in my business strategy class -- they said that the strategic process was 90% of the worth and the content (the actual resultant document) was only 10% of the worth. There was a very strict model that used feedback loops throughout the process; the end result, however, was a process that does not necessarily keep up with the speed of business these days.
Smart executives are figuring out that a 1960s pace for planning doesn't work today and are shifting to a 90-day strategy process. They realize that strategy-making is the vital, ongoing process through which a company learns how it can win -- and they manage their strategic assumptions and initiatives as aggressively as they manage their numbers.
How can an outfit possibly do strategic planning every quarter? Certainly not by simply speeding up the traditional processes. The people at Microsoft (MSFT ) came up with an innovative solution. For years, they have used a sort of "strategy slam" process to make sure strategies get mapped and adapted quickly. They identify a group of 20 or 30 people most capable of contributing to the strategy of a new initiative and literally lock them in a room for 48 hours with a skilled facilitator. The only ground rule: A comprehensive strategy and detailed action plan that the entire team will endorse must be delivered on the 48th hour.
There are some other tips in the article that are worth reading regarding a rapid acceleration of the strategic planning process. The interesting thing that McFarland points out is that by compressing the timeline as Microsoft does still results in a strategy that is 90% as good as one that might have taken 60 days.