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A ship at sea needs to be well maintained and ready for action. If the ship's internal radar picks up on an incoming threat, the crew needs to be able to spring into action to deliver the ship to safety. If the vessel and the crew are not prepared to handle unforeseen difficulties, damage could be sustained.
Companies need strategies that enable them to be flexible and adaptable to unplanned difficulties and challenges. Without these strategies, time, money and effort will be wasted trying and potentially failing to handle unexpected competitor situations that arise.
The difference between a team equipped to pivot and a team stuck in the moment is the adaptability of their strategic plan. You need to implement and foster dynamic strategic planning — layered onto incremental strategic planning — to succeed, regardless of the way your market evolves.
Incremental strategic planning can be effective in certain scenarios. If you're trying to get from A to B and there are seven stops in between those two states, then incremental planning is focusing only on the step ahead. For your company, it might mean focusing on having a good month or a good quarter, but not necessarily focusing on the greater trends or where a 'good month' is trying to get you. Incremental goals are important and should be celebrated; however, your team should be able to tie those achievements back to a larger plan. This gives those incremental wins more purpose and importance.
Incremental strategic planning leaves gaps; there is more to be desired. Employees who have to focus on incremental goals often lose sight of the greater reason for their work. It is easy to become focused on incremental identifiers, but having a greater driving force will produce more targeted results and create more productive and happy employees.
Adopting a dynamic strategic planning strategy requires you and your leadership team to be able to define the long-term goals and vision of your company. Identify your long-term plan, whether that is a three, five or ten-year plan. Identify how "zoomed out" your strategy is, and how beneficial that distance will be to your company's daily activities. Then, work backwards to identify how the incremental wins that occur each week or each month contribute to your overarching vision.
This bigger picture idea helps prepare your company for unexpected changes. You will be able to return to your vision when needed and pivot your immediate action plan to adjust to changing market conditions. Instead of trying to identify where to go next, you can — again — work backward and land on step one with an entire plan in front of you.
Your product can't be carved in stone either. If the market evolves at a certain rate that makes it so your product becomes less relevant or useful, then there is a dangerous opportunity for your company to take significant financial hits. CI is a crucial component of dynamic strategic planning. Stay current and keep your company's pulse on the market with knowledge of competitor plans and methods.
Acquiring this 30,000-foot view can be difficult without objectivity — for obvious reasons. Outside perspective from a strategy coach or consultant will offer objectivity accompanied by subjective knowledge. Strategy Consultants can be the additional filter for your strategic and tactical thinking. Often, companies don't know what they don't know. Make sure your potential is being maximized. Taking a step back and looking through fresh eyes will give you a clear perspective on how to succeed in planning ahead — allowing you to both set realistic goals and remain flexible.
Derek Heiss is the Director of Cipher’s Consulting Practice and is specialized in competitive intelligence and market strategy consulting. Cipher is a consulting and technology firm, based in Annapolis, with a 20+ year track record of delivering solutions to the Fortune 500 and Global 1,000.