Traditional business strategy methods give us many tools and techniques to build “the perfect plan”.
It offers structure in the SWOT process. It provides analysis in demand and forecasting models. It provides decision-making frameworks to assess the merits of various alternatives.
It’s a mature discipline that has definitely helped organizations chart a course for their future.
That said, I have two issues with it.
1. Traditional planning is far too complicated; too expensive; too time consuming in relation to the benefits realized and it raises the false expectaion that the strategy will actually work as planned in a world full of rapid change and unpleasant surprises.
If the essence of the strategy can’t be counted on to succeed why don’t we simplify the planning process so that it is not overly onerous and complicated? So that it is expedient and not costly?
I have seen the folly of relying exclusively on this old school approach that gives the planner the false impression that the complexity of the approach increases the chances of its success.
This alternative has been road tested in the real world. Dumb down the strategy building process, get your plan just about right and execute it better than your competitors.
2. The traditional approach says virtually nothing about the principle of response. Successful companies are brilliant at reacting to surprise events they did not anticipate and those that are unable to adapt struggle and die.
How many strategies have you seen unfold the way you originally planned? I have seen none; it is the impossible dream!
The principle of response is the essence of the practice of planning on the run: Plan – Execute – Learn – RESPOND (Adjust) – Execute….
The essentials of planning in response to unexpected forces:
1. Keep the strategy building process simple. Cut the time to devote to developing your strategy in half to make room for more attention to implementation. Get your direction right. Be ok with “heading west”. Precision is your enemy.
2. Get to the real GUT issues you are facing. Forget about complicated mathematical formulae to help you understand the challenges you face. This is not an intellectual exercise.
Declare the three issues keeping you up at night that you must address in order to survive and thrive in an unpredictable world.
3. Plot a course of action. Spend copious amounts of time figuring out how you intend to implement your statement of direction. Assign accountability and specific timeframes to deliver results.
4. Execute! Execute! Execute! Bear down on getting results however you can. It doesn’t have to be elegant as long as you’re getting stuff done. And make sure everyone in the organization clearly understands what they have to do to support the execution plan; people doing their own thing is a nonstarter.
5. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Meticulously monitor and analyze results to discover what you should do more of and what you should stop doing.
6. React to your results and adjust your direction. Tweek your plan based on how effective your execution is and move on quickly.
6. Continue executing. Keep your feet moving; studying and pontificating satisfies the intellect and nothing more.
Remarkable organizations have a “reasonable” plan, but their competitive advantage is that they react to unexpected change better than anyone else.
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