Strategic Planning: A Life Jacket When One Solution Is Not Enough

A business environment - is a battlefield, strategic planning - is the only way to survive


'Plans are worthless, but planning is everything,'- that's how the US General Dwight D.Eisenhower referred to the importance of strategic planning in emergency situations. Eisenhower was inspired by Moltke the Elder, a German General who distinguished a difference between 'having a plan' and 'a process of strategic planning': When you are planning for an emergency, you must start with this one thing: the very definition of 'emergency' is that it is unexpected, therefore, it's not going to happen as you are planning.' Similar to a battlefield environment, actions in business must be supported by a clear strategy, because businesses exist in unpredictable conditions, and their strength can be measured only once they start facing challenges.

The success of a business strategy doesn't lie in a plan, but an ability to assess the environment the business is in and come up with effective solutions through strategic planning. There must be several solution scenarios for each problem as 'no plan survives a contact with the enemy' - so the more options you have, the better the chances the business will survive and thrive.

The problem is that many businesses are not comfortable with strategic planning and give up on a concept if it's too time-consuming. Companies often assess situations and challenges 'as they go', assuring themselves that they have a plan. Having a plan and practising strategic planning, however, is not the same. A plan encourages actions by individuals, whereas companies should focus on practices done at all corporate levels with a strategic element - an important distinction that confuses many.

Companies may appear overconfident thinking they can succeed without strategic planning by only having a business plan, which they see as a control tool in the business. Additionally, many also think that others see them the same way they see themselves - all of these are the signs of overconfidence that can be damaging. Strategic planning, and especially its regular review allows them to realistically assess their company's position in the market, spot problems in advance and have a full picture of where they are as a company and what can be done to make them better.

The fact that the world is rapidly changing due to the appearance of new markets and disruptive players, should be considered as a good enough reason to start planning strategically. Processes of strategic planning act as a shield and guidance - something a company definitely needs in times of turbulence. Regular reviews of the strategy with your teams will keep the plan up to date, considering all changes that may have happened in the market or to the company in a period between assessments.

Strategic planning as a process must include clarification of what the business is about (its goals and aspirations), prioritization of core tasks, regular analysis of the corporate and external environment, and an outline of the best solutions to overcome challenges. Strategic planning is an ongoing and responsive way of thinking that shouldn't stop.

Military planners acknowledge a critical point - the world doesn't stand still, so why should your business strategy?

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