LET me start with this powerful quote from Cornelius Fichtner, “Planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal.”
A handful of founders, business owners and several senior management cannot get over the well-attended Strategic Planning 2021 webinar event two Saturdays ago organized by Icon Executive Asia and W+B Family Business Advisory. I still receive messages from my inbox trained on why we were able to simplify the process related to strategic management. Collectively, they also confided to me that they have been doing it wrong all along but they also acknowledged that for any business to prosper and be sustainable, strategic planning is a must. While others demonstrated that strategic planning is the key to looking to the future and creating a direction deliberately as opposed to simply behaving on a “kneejerk reaction” every time events unfold in the market. One email sender, a second generation chief executive officer of a family-owned conglomerate, caught my attention, “professor Soriano, strategic planning for us meant going out of town for three to four few days once a year and laying out the company’s goals and direction for the next three years. Sensing that our annual event was going nowhere last year, we conducted a survey among our executives and the results confirmed my suspicions...most were dissatisfied with the results they get from that investment of time. My colleagues felt that during planning sessions they will end up just sitting through yet another boring and predictable meeting, clearly not engaged, and not creative. Summarizing all the emails I received, I can conclude that practically all of the key business leaders and executives expressed their displeasure with their current strategic planning process. So while they think strategic planning is necessary, they don’t fully realize the benefits they were hoping to attain from it.
The implications and confusion highlighted by these attendees have a tremendous impact on the organization and the workforce and the overall cynicism related to a faulty strategic planning process is expected to pervade throughout the organization resulting in indifference, a culture of apathy and a lack of clarity in terms of the company’s strategy. The webinar drove home several important messages. Primarily, that the pandemic has exposed businesses on a number of outdated and archaic business practices and revealed fundamental inefficiencies that will be difficult for companies to ignore moving forward. Secondly, my colleague from Singapore, Stephen Lin and I sounded an alarm and called on leaders that they must transform into agile organizations and internalize the lessons we shared immediately. Lastly, before creating a sustainable competitive advantage, it is critical to embrace a most basic rule in business...to always think with a strategic intent, acknowledge that strategic tools are helpful and that business leaders must never waiver and compromise in pursuing the elusive right customer or primary target market.
As bleak as the future may look, the pandemic will eventually pass. Amid the chaos of today, leaders have a once in a generation opportunity to reflect, reform and reimagine the next generation of customers. My final piece of advice, know your customer intimately, they will be your front, back and center in whatever world that will emerge right after this crisis. To quote one of Mckinsey’s well written articles, “one priority, then, is to reenergize the organization—to act rather than react. Even as the Covid-19 crisis continues to create a world of uncertainty, the goal must be to rebuild for the longer term. Companies that are strong and resilient will be better placed to survive and prosper. Those are qualities that can’t be taken for granted; they need to be cultivated. Not only do leaders need to act now, they need to act boldly. And to reinforce this statement, their research has found that “companies that made substantive changes fared better coming out of downturns than those that didn’t.”
A strategic mindset in this extreme uncertainty is non-negotiable! When you plan for a major comeback, plan it right.