How Often Should You Revise Your Strategy?

Once upon a time companies would create ‘5-year strategic plans’, go away and work on them, and then come back five years later to start again. Today things change way too quickly – technology, markets, competition – to wait five years before revising your strategy.

It makes good sense to go through an annual strategic exercise, generally the last 4 months of the fiscal year, to reassess the market landscape, macro landscape (e.g., economic, technological and social factors) and internal landscape, and then reconstruct your strategy as needed. Many mid-size companies do this. Good, but it’s not enough.

Even within a year, things can change. Working with clients I’ve found it useful to conduct one or two ‘Recalibration’ meetings that segment the fiscal year. What do they look like? Full day sessions at which the top management team questions their previous assumptions and evaluates new data to: 1) determine implications for the existing strategic framework, and 2) identify and prioritize changes and actions to be undertaken.

The third trigger for revising strategy is a real-time major event. The loss of a key customer, the economy goes into free-fall, or the release of a game-changing competitor product, are all examples. When this happens the top management team needs to meet asap to, again, determine the implications, and identify and prioritize critical changes and next steps.

Strategy is a living process that should be both planned and adaptive. How often should you consider revising it? Annually, within the fiscal year, and as circumstances demand. That will keep your strategy real and relevant.

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