Once upon a time, companies would develop something called “the 5-year strategic plan.” They would look into the future, identify opportunities, and then chart the course for the next half-decade.
Then the pace of change accelerated. It compressed the strategy cycle. While companies then might still think strategically over 3-5 years, they would plan for 1-3 years. There was simply too much uncertainty associated with the longer term.
Which brings us to today. We have little idea what’s going to happen in 3 months, much less 1-3 years. So does that mean strategy is dead? Far from it. What it means is that this is the time for quick-cycle strategy.
In normal times, working with our clients we would conduct a mid-year strategy recalibration. We would examine recent data, question the assumptions underlying the strategy, project future scenarios, and then adjust the strategy as needed. We might accelerate one strategic initiative or back-burner another. A new strategic initiative might emerge. Recalibrating the strategy kept it real and relevant.
Now, recalibration is done monthly. As situational volatility and uncertainty have increased, the cycle for strategy has quickened. The need for agility, with both strategy and execution, is crucial. And the need for “blank-sheet thinking” — crafting strategy from scratch based on the external reality and your internal capabilities — is also crucial.
Back in March, Flying Elephant Productions, an Irish company that builds event stages and props, saw its business all-but-vanish within 48 hours. Canceled contracts, mandated lockdowns … everything suggested it was game over. Clearly, this was not the time for simply tweaking their strategy. However, a request came in: “I’m forced to work from home now but I don’t have a desk. Could you build me one?” Boom! The dots connected: People forced to work from home, many without an adequate desk, Flying Elephant with an excess supply of lumber and unutilized capabilities for building things. They built the desk. Then they built another. And one month later they had sold over 2,000 desks with a steady stream of orders flowing in!
Agility. Blank-sheet thinking. Have you embraced quick-cycle strategy?
Make it happen.
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