I have been thinking a lot lately about corporate strategy and future-focused business plans.
When I dedicate the time and energy necessary to the undertaking of a strategic planning process, I expect long-term payoff for the up-front investment. A three to five-year plan is standard with some expectation of deviation but nothing business-altering. This time horizon allows for short-term wins along with the time required to make larger dreams a reality.
I don’t know of anyone who had a global pandemic on the radar in their plans for 2020. Yet here we are: grappling with the current reality, trying to pivot to minimize the impact and maximize our response. The aftermath is expected to be felt in the long term, and it necessitates a fresh look at strategic planning for the months and years to come.
Since no one has offered me a reliable crystal ball, I am digging in with some tried and true methodologies taught in business school and strategy seminars. These concepts provide the foundation I require to wrap my head around where we are today, where we want to be tomorrow, and the paths we can take to get there.
There is nothing revolutionary about a SWOT and gap analysis, BCG matrix, or a Porter’s five forces chart. In fact, I used to be skeptical of these tools due to their fundamental simplicity. Strategy is complex and layered, so how can a two-by-two grid inform years of future planning? Over the past few weeks, however, I have been drawn back to these foundational concepts and tools. By starting with a few tried and true concepts, I can begin to wrap my head around the larger unknowns. Instead of grappling entirely with the negative aspects, I can take a balanced approach of matching strengths and core competencies up with challenges I see on the road ahead.
Paralysis by analysis is a real problem for me at the best of times and I am on high alert these days. By going back to the basics, I am able to take full advantage of familiar methodologies that help me frame my thinking in terms of the things I know and where I need to gain a deeper understanding. This helps relieve the stress of dealing with an exponentially growing list of threats in the SWOT analysis.
This back-to-basics mindset helps me with my regular work, the strategic planning I am focusing on, and my daily home life. It is surprisingly refreshing to work through both simple and complex challenges using a two-by-two grid to focus my thoughts and determine the next steps. I might not be solving all of the big problems, but I am confident that the work I am doing today is going to pay off tomorrow.