A recent article in the Wall Street Journal argues that our current economic environment may have rendered strategic planning obsolete (subscribers can click here to read the whole article). As an Accenture partner is quoted saying,
Strategy as we knew it is dead.
Read a little deeper in the article. The leaders and consultants profiled didn’t stop scanning the environment and planning responses that would help them to succeed over the long haul. Instead, they changed a couple of key features in how they planned:
* They accelerated review cycles. Rather than quarterly or annual reviews, they moved to monthly reviews so that they could act quickly on changing scenarios.
* They considered more variables and different scenarios.
* They made decision-making more experimental and adaptive instead of making decisions all at once for the next five years.
If anything, these may be good planning disciplines, not concessions to a lousy economy. Leading thinkers in entrepreneurial planning have long advocated a more experimental approach to decision-making and planning since most entrepreneurial ventures deal with a lot of unknowns.
For instance, Rita McGrath and Ian MacMillan describe this approach to planning in their excellent book, Discovery-Driven Planning. Their basic premise is simple enough:
* Make plans knowing that you can’t possibly master all of the variables before moving to implementation.
* Identify and document assumptions behind your plans.
* Be sure that those assumptions (and especially the assumptions that will most dramatically impact your success) will be tested as early and as cheaply as possible as you move forward in your plan.
* Review progress and the validity of your assumptions at each milestone – and adjust, curtail, or harvest learning from plans that have failing assumptions.
Of course, as in most things, this process sounds simple but it’s not necessarily easy since it requires a whole new mind-set to pull it off. But it puts the lie to the notion that strategy is dead. Maybe it’s just getting more nimble.