The Strategic Planning Cookbook: 4 Essential Ingredients

Throughout my career in Strategic Planning, many people have asked me what qualities best characterize Planners. I’ve come to realize that at the heart of it all, there is one overarching truth, as applicable to Planning as it is to haute cuisine: It’s not about process… it’s about craftsmanship.

Below are the four essential ingredients that form my Strategic Planner recipe for success…

1. It’s about humanity and humility:
A great chef deeply understands the diversity of his guests’ palates. Likewise, an essential ingredient in every great Planner’s skillset is the ability to immerse themselves in their audience’s reality. This calls for empathy and humility. Their empathetic nature enables them to, for instance, market minivans to moms one day, steam turbines to engineers the next day, and shampoo to young college students on the third.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice:
Most agencies have access to the same data and research. But, like a trained chef whipping up something extraordinary with ordinary ingredients, some Planners always seem to come up with something surprisingly unique from the same data that everyone has. How? It takes a lot of hard work, training and learning from mistakes to be able to go deeper than the obvious. So, work really, really hard and constantly hone your skill. There is truly no substitute.

3. It’s an obsession, not a hobby:
You’ve heard that thing about too many cooks, right? Like cooking, Planning is often about one person’s vision and the need for quiet mind-space, not a cacophony of meetings. Do not rush into the comfort zone of collective debate. Be sure you have a definite point of view before discussing it with a group of people that have a vested interest in the outcome. Teamwork is essential, but only at the right time.

4. It’s the antithesis of cleverness:
Ah, so you’ve coined that oh-so-neat alliteration? That killer turn of phrase? That to-die-for pop culture allusion? Excellent. Now put the distraction aside, lest, like an overly-seasoned dish, it overwhelm the core truth you have uncovered. Try to restrain the desire to be the next Shakespeare until after you’ve written the actual idea, in its raw, true beauty. Be simple. Be honest. Truth is its own garnish.

So there you have it – the best strategic planners, like great chefs, do not blindly follow recipes. Instead, they follow the same key tenets of craftsmanship that the best chefs do. The results will be worth the effort, and very, very tasty.

About RP Kumar

With more than 27 years in increasingly senior roles in Consumer Insights and Strategic Planning, RP specializes in leading major research programs; gleaning relevant, actionable, sometimes hard-to-find insights from them; and developing brand, communication and marketing strategies for Ketchum’s clients. Further, he is also responsible for building the agency’s capability in these critical roles for clients. RP has on-the-ground global brand strategy experience across geographies (India, Middle East and North America), across categories (Food, Consumer Products, Telecom and Technology) and across major global agencies (J. Walter Thompson, Lowe and DRAFTFCB). He is passionately devoted to teaching and is a regular faculty member at Miami Ad School and teaches often at major universities, including University of Chicago’s Booth School of Management and Texas A&M University. RP holds a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering and an M.B.A. in Marketing and Strategy.

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