Strategic planning must be done on a continual basis, not just once a year. This is especially true now that technology is changing at an ever-increasing pace.
Consider those once-great firms that met with disastrous results because of inadequate strategic planning. Eastman Kodak, for example, failed to accept and address the digital revolution thinking they had a monopoly on film technology.
Borders suffered a similar fate because the company chose to ignore trends in consumer preferences. They saw that more and more people were reading books digitally via their laptops, iPads, Kindles and other devices rather than buying hardcopy books in the store, but did nothing to plan for their future viability. It still surprises me that Barnes & Noble is making it.
Then there is the financial services industry and the changes brought about by alternative lenders like Lending Club and Rocket Mortgage. Lending Club is a neat tool that enables borrowers to find investors who want to lend money. This is called peer-to-peer lending, and to date, Lending Club has helped finance more than $17 billion in relatively small loans less than $40,000. Rocket Mortgage is a division of Quicken that makes it easy to get home loans very quickly. So far, Rocket Mortgage has financed over $200 billion in loans.
The point of sharing this is that technology does not wait around. It is constantly changing. We must learn to be proactive and adjust to these changes.
Will Rogers had a great quote. He said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” You must constantly be looking forward to see what is happening in your industry and with technology, and developing what is necessary to keep you ahead of your competition.
So how do you do this? One thing you can do is focus your strategic planning on the areas that have significant impact on your business and are high-risk. For example, it does little good to spend a lot of time and energy on a new HR system compared to a new sales distribution channel. The point is to focus attention on those items that are both high-risk and high-impact, not tactical.
Sometimes with strategic planning, the right decision is to wait and watch for future developments. Maybe the time is not right to make a move. This is a fine approach as long as you understand deciding to wait involves a positive decision and not a failure to make one.
Is strategic planning easy? No. It is very difficult. No one can absolutely forecast the future, but we must do the best we can to estimate what trends are ahead and develop a plan to respond to coming changes.
Strategic planning involves being on the lookout for opportunities your business can take advantage of and changes you will need to address to keep your organization viable. To be successful, you must spend a significant portion of your time on this type of planning.
You can do this!
Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant and Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.