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Don’t GPS Your Strategy

There has been some media coverage in past months about a relatively new road hazard – GPS systems. Actually it is not the GPS systems themselves that are proving a hazard, but rather the way in which some drivers have been using them.
Apparently some drivers, often tourists, have been following their GPS so religiously, they have not actually looked at the road ahead of them. Consequently they have had accidents when the road has been altered temporarily for road works and the GPS has not had the temporary change recorded.

This seems a ridiculous thing to do, but it is how many businesses approach budgets, plans and strategies. Quite often planning sessions are held once every 12 months, and at that time, strategies, project and budgets are finalized. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief to have that done for the year, and off they go, back to ‘business as usual’.

From then on, month to month, managers monitor spending against budgets and report on progress towards any goals that are being measured. Too often there is no looking up and around, to see what is actually happening for customers, other stakeholders and in the industry generally, and therefore whether these plans and budgets are still accurate. In other words, there is little strategic thinking going on in between the 12 month planning times. As a result, organizations are sometimes missing opportunities and threats that become apparent, or if someone does identify them, they are told that it is ‘not in the budget’. That might mean being behind competitors, missing opportunities or facing greater risks that needed to be the case.

So why bother doing the plan? Maybe you shouldn’t!! However there are some benefits to an executive team spending time on the process of planning. For starters, it ought to encourage strategic thinking at that time. It forces executives to take time away from business as usual to think about the operating environment, key stakeholders and other strategic issues. By doing this together, they build ideas and strategies that all parts of the organization can understand and support.
Having planned though, everyone needs to look out the window and see what might now be coming towards you and prepare. By the time you’ve finished the plan, it may need to change. That’s the process of on-going strategic thinking!

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