When do you need to do strategic planning?

When do you need to do a strategic plan? When you least expect it.

According to a recent survey of clients, most hire outside resources to assist in strategic planning when they find they can’t make something happen the way they would like on their own-they are not achieving goals, transforming culture or executing initiatives effectively. It is not unusual that this goes on for 2 years or longer before the organization feels certain they need help. While the reluctance to call in outside help is understandable, it is akin to fixing the plumbing at home–not because you know how–but because it is in your home.

How do I know that you likely need help well before you think you do? Because the best time to plan for the future is when the organization is just peaking in its growth cycle-not after it has missed the mark. Consider Apple’s strategy. Their long term strategy relies on an Operating System that has bridged their penetration into, and transformation of, multiple mega-industries. Their pace of product introduction ensures that the next big thing comes out before the last big thing has peaked. Why? It keeps momentum. It secures competitive position. It keeps customers enthused. They don’t wait until they are down to decide what to do about it and your company shouldn’t either!

For those of us plumbers, er, strategists, we call it the “S” curve. It represents the left side of a bell curve of the business growth cycle. Each growth curve starts with launch, gains momentum as customers begin to adopt the product and then shoots to the top as the early adopters influence others to participate in the market. While intellectually it makes sense to invent the next growth cycle before the current one enters maturity at the top of the curve (when we stop long enough to think about it but who has the time to do that when we are pedal to the metal?) very few businesses do. Most wait until they are well along in maturity or even in decline. That is too late! it is much harder to recover and there are fewer funds to invest in growth.

Where is your company in ITS growth cycle? Is it time to call the plumber, er, strategist?

Discover more in our Strategic Planning FAQ playlist.

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