Times are still quite difficult for most companies, even with the market up significantly for the year and the economy improving. This makes thinking strategically about the future more difficult than it’s been in the past. The last thing any of us needs is to make another half-assed projection about how to grow our business and then to see it fall flat on its face.
So how do successful companies plan in difficult times? One of the best approaches is to balance the following:
- Know what you stand for and what you do best
- Understand what is paying the bills now and for the next 1 – 2 years
- Have a clear vision of what you hope to be in 10 years
- Establish a “base camp” 1 – 3 years in the future that bites off a big chunk of achieving your 10 year vision
- Use elements of Scenario Planning to learn more about the future
- Boil everything down to an action plan for the next year
This means balancing Strategy and Tactics. Most companies that have survived the last two years are fairly good at the tactics they needed to execute to pay the bills but many companies could use a refresher on how to Think Strategically.
The First Step
No matter how large or small your business, the first step in having a strategic conversation about the future is to gather your management team, executive committee, key managers or whomever you rely on to run your business. To have a strategic discussion you need diversity of thought, different viewpoints and feedback. This is not a one person dialog, otherwise why bother?
Ask your team members individually what they think the company’s Core Values really are before you meet the first time. Then ask everyone to read their list of Core Values aloud. Write the 3 – 5 Core Values that everyone appears to agree on on a white board or flip chart. Now take 10 minutes and ask everyone to answer the following questions about each Core Value for themselves:
- If you were to start a new organization, would you build it around this core value regardless of the industry?
- Would you want your organization to continue to stand for this core value 100 years into the future,no matter what changes occur in the outside world?
- Would you want your organization to hold this core value, even if at some point in time it became a competitive disadvantage—even if in some instances the environment penalized the organization for living this core value?
- Do you believe that those who do not share this core value—those who breach it consistently—simply do not belong in your organization?
- Would you personally continue to hold this core value even if you were not rewarded for holding it?
- Would you change jobs before giving up this core value?
- If you awoke tomorrow with more than enough money to retire comfortably for the rest of your life, would you continue to apply this core value to your productive activities?
Now list the Core Values that everyone answered Yes to when answering these seven questions and write them on the flip chart or white board. Do one final check on these Core Values by answering whether these are your company’s true Core Values or if these are values you or your team would like to achieve at some point in the future. If you can’t honestly answer that a Core Value is authentic in your current state, cross it off the list.