Herding Cats – Discussion on Strategy Development

Ed BurghardDeveloping an actionable strategy for a community can be a daunting task, and is unfortunately often one that is not undertaken frequently enough. Many of the people that have approached me for advice on strategy development and deployment describe their own planning experience as “herding cats”.

I think this short video (created by EDS for another reason) captures how difficult the challenge of long-term strategic planning can be in economic development.

Herding Cats

When you successfully deliver a clear, aligned strategic plan, there is tremendous upside potential for accelerated economic performance. But there is also a lot of hard work and potentially a few scratches along the way.

The strategic planning processes that I learned, successfully applied throughout my career, and consequently recommend is hoshin planning. Another popular way to refer to this process is OGSM planning (Objectives-Goals-Strategies-Measures). It is the preferred strategic planning process used by successful managers in a number of Fortune 1000 companies including Procter & Gamble.

Here is a good overview of the process and how it works – OGSM Process


My best counsel is to not be daunted by the process. It is actually pretty straightforward and intuitive. The trick is to focus on data rather than opinion and to work hard to make real choices.

One trap to avoid is writing the objective and strategies so broadly, to ensure buy-in by the disparate groups in your community, that virtually every tactic can be argued as appropriate. Your strategies must represent real choices. In addition, it is critical to have a robust discussion on the sufficiency of your choices. Can they collectively deliver the objective for your community?

Here are a couple more tips that may help –

  • Your objective should be aspirational.
  • Your strategies define where you choose to play and how you choose to win – so choose wisely and think about creating competitive advantage.
  • Your strategies will include choices like industries to target, assets to grow or create, business climate improvements, role of FDI, etc.
  • Be sure the process has involvement from your key constituencies to ensure buy-in and support when the going gets tough.
  • Keep it simple so everybody can understand what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Adequate resourcing is critical to success. A good strategy that can’t be effectively executed is a waste of time.

With a bit of preparation and a lot of work, you can be a successful cat herder for your community and can create a competitive strategic plan that delivers accelerated economic growth. But, based on my experience, no matter how well prepared you are there will be a scratch or two along the way.

“It ain’t an easy job, but when you bring a herd into town and you ain’t lost a one of ‘em … ain’t a feeling like it in the world.”

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