In the old days, typically, corporations would engage in strategic planning by convening their leadership teams at two-day offsite planning sessions. The goal was to have the members of those teams work diligently at constructing a document that would be used as a beacon to help those organizations achieve their objectives for growth in the coming years.
Generally, such strategic plans would be executed over a period of up to five years.
These days, the voluminous multi-year “strategic planning” document of this type is a relic for most companies.
I started to think more about this issue following a recent presentation I made to students in an MBA Capstone Strategy Class at Bentley University just prior to their graduation. It was a topic they were interested in, and caused me to reflect on what it is that companies need to do to be successful in today’s hyper-kinetic business environment.
At Eliassen Group, a national technology staffing and consulting services company that fulfills the IT infrastructure needs of Fortune 1000 corporations, our clients always have the option to leave us for a company they perceive can deliver the personnel or project in a more expeditious manner. So we are constantly posed with devising and adjusting a strategic plan that will allow us to grow in the markets we serve — Agile, Life Sciences, Government Services and Workforce Management.
Having a successful strategic plan that upon implementation will move the company forward to meet its objectives is an incessant point of emphasis. And in our particular sector, the verticals that we serve in technology are constantly changing, so our clients are always looking for those professionals who are well-versed in the latest IT trends and information systems.
Any corporation in today’s marketplace, regardless of industry, is not serving its shareholders and employees well if it gets bogged down in the process of constructing a “strategic plan.” Sustained growth requires change. All businesses need to be thinking strategically and adopting changes “real time,” constantly evolving the infrastructure that is necessary to fulfill their clients’ needs.
Corporate agility and willingness to adapt are two keys to achieving scaled growth and are fundamental components to making strategic plans become operating realities. Every member of the Eliassen Group Leadership Team implicitly understands this, and we collaborate regularly on what the company needs to stop doing, start doing, and keep doing. Our plans do not collect dust. Once debated, created, agreed to and then internally communicated, we move to integrate those changes and immediately begin measuring outcomes, some can gauge the effects the most recent modifications to our strategic plan are having.
Roger Martin, the dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, said in a recent blog post for the Harvard Business Review, “… Strategy is not planning — it is the making of an integrated set of choices that collectively position the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage relative to competition and deliver superior financial returns.”
In the past, it made sense to have a 50-page document, bound and printed on glossy paper, outlining what your company would do over the next three to five years.
With the pace of change in our industry today, planning has become more dynamic, and the spoils of victory will go to those who are more nimble and willing to embrace change.