Once and Future Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is a cycle. It’s like reading Finnegans Wake. No beginning and no end. The participant keeps negotiating with the middle.
Some organizations have a great desire to grapple with their place in the world, in a market. That struggle of definition can, and perhaps should, take on two distinct, but complementary efforts.
First is the effort to define meaning in the context of the now. What are we doing today and how do we do that better. Work through issues and consequences as though long-time does not matter, just next week or next quarter. Focus on what you know customers want today. Organizations do this is to avoid analysis paralysis. All organizations need to get things done.
Second, organizations need to think about the future. While strategic dialog takes place in the now, it is a process that stretches forward without end. Its canvas does not exist at a point in time. It is a journey, not an answer.
Some people want answers. By focusing on the now, the organization establishes a place of stability from which strategic dialog can take place.
Strategic dialog intertwines with the present, creating a context that influences the choices people make in the near term.
Think about the future as context
Most organizations prove horribly ill-equipped to talk about the future. And when they do, they do so with a deterministic bent and an overwrought absoluteness. They portray to their organization that they know what the future will be. And that is dangerous. It leads to choices informed by not vision but by ignorance.
Organizations require strategic dialog that helps people understand the shifting parameters that define the organization. An organization that opens up its strategic dialog, shares the uncertainties it faces, the better equipped it will be to make strategic decisions. As incorporate strategic dialog into their work context, they may well look back at the artifacts of previous outcomes and consider them naive or uninformed. There is nothing wrong with that. New tools and new perspectives change context. The one thing we know about the future with certainty is that more of the present will be behind us once we get there, and that will make everything in the past seem quaint or kindle a bit of nostalgia depending on the circumstances of the future.
Call to action
So go out and do two things.
- Make some decisions about what you know today.
- Start thinking about the future in a robust way.
Decisions made tomorrow will be better informed than those made today. The biggest risk reaching for a strategy perspective comes from the false sense of thinking that something has been determined and acting on it without looking to see if the world changed between knowing and executing. A brain may say step, but before planting a foot down, look to see if there is a puddle or not where you just know there shouldn’t be one.