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When Strategic Planning Collides with Reality

“Every good plan eventually collides with reality.”

If that old saying about strategic planning doesn’t hit the nail on the head these days, we don’t know what does. It’s certainly something that’s top-of-mind here at Compass Leadership, as we adjust the ways in which we are helping our clients and refine our strategic thinking regarding our own changing business environment. One thing we know for sure is that while none of us can promise certainty to our teams, what we can and must do is provide clarity.

Below are a few thoughts to keep in mind:

Strategy Must Align with Reality

When our reality changes, our strategic plans need to change too; or at least be modified. Strategy is the collection of intentional decisions a business or organization makes to give itself the best chance to succeed. These decisions are made according to what you know and can reasonably predict at the time. When the playing field changes, you need to shift, in order to continue to give yourself the best chance of success.

Shorten Your Planning Terms

Begin by decreasing your planning horizon. If you normally develop 2, 3 or 5-year strategic plans, reduce those timelines. There is huge uncertainty right now as to what even the medium-term future will hold. Focusing on what you can see and thinking in short-term 3 to 6-month segments will give you doable plans. Since our environment is changing so rapidly, planning in shorter time spans allows you the nimbleness to assess and adjust.

Revisit Values and Purpose

It has been proven that companies and teams who enjoy enduring success, have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed, while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. An importance piece of your business or organizational strategy should be to continue to have the conversation with your team that considers questions like,

“Why do we exist?”

“What do we do and for whom do we do it?”

“How do we behave?”

The very act of asking and answering these questions clarifies and reinforces your values and purpose. You may be surprised how the answers will become more specific and clearer each time you do the exercise, so build it into your process whenever you are developing a new plan.

Environmental Scanning is Essential

Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value, whether you’re competing for customers, funding or talent. An environmental scan, in our opinion, is an indispensable and non-negotiable piece of the planning process. Taking on the task yourself or assigning it to one of your team members, it provides the golden opportunity to ask yourselves the key question, “what are we not going to do?”

And one last thought...

As Leonardo da Vinci so eloquently said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Strategic planning should not be complicated, lengthy, or difficult to communicate and understand. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy, especially if you’re too close to the issues. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you and your team, please reach out and send us a note or give us a call and we’ll do our very best to help!


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