Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes. One form of bad strategic objectives occurs when there is a scrambled mess of things to accomplish—a “dog’s dinner” of strategic objectives.
A long list of “things to do,” often mislabeled as “strategies” or “objectives,” is not a strategy. It is just a list of things to do. Such lists usually grow out of planning meetings in which a wide variety of stakeholders make suggestions as to things they would like to see. Rather than focus on a few important items, the group sweeps the whole day’s collection into the “strategic plan.” Then, in recognition that it is a dog’s dinner, the label “long-term” is added so that none of them need be done today.
As a vivid example, I recently had the chance to discuss strategy with the mayor of a small city in the Pacific Northwest. His planning committee’s strategic plan contained 47 “strategies” and 178 action items. Action item number 122 was to “create a strategic plan.” As another example, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s strategic plan for “high-priority schools” (discussed on the next page) contained 7 “strategies,” 26 “tactics,” and 234 “action steps,” a true dog’s dinner of things to do.
My copy of this book has more text highlighted than non-highlighted.