Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Strategic planning v The Strategic Plan

Eisenhower once said: planning is everything; plans are nothing. He had in mind Von Moltke's famous statement: plans never survive first contact with the enemy.

And, although projects are not war, plans seem to suffer the same fate. Plans don't seem to survive the first touch with project reality, though perhaps project plans are a little more surviving than war plans.

In a recent post, "why small business should scrap strategic planning" we learn that small businesses can successfully do away with strategic plans altogether. They're too expensive, time consuming, and irrelevant to write and maintain.

Author Kaihan Krippendorff  says: "What fast-growing companies need is strategic thinking--not strategic planning". He offers three ideas for thinking:
  1. Think in the hallway (casual conversations are sometimes very stimulating of new ideas; See A. Cockburn's osmotic communication)
  2. Ask "why not" (this is probably the strategic adaption of the 'ask why 5 times' paradigm)
  3. Try (something) and adjust (this is Franklin Roosevelt's "try something and if it doesn't work try something else, but don't just sit there" paradigm)
So, not exactly a paragon of original thinking, but perhaps there's something to Krippendorff's thesis, to wit:
  • Too many strategic plans are just a three-year display of sales and market share... mostly a money plan and not a strategy per se, necessary but not sufficient
  • Product road maps are closer to strategy if there's plan attached
  • Three years may be too long for a small business; their horizon may be 6 months to some positive cash flow, or else
  • And, if the product flops, do the Roosevelt thing. A lot of start-ups, like Group-on, start on Plan A but quickly shift to Plan B. The planning element "1" from the list above may be the best thing you've got. (Solyndra, anyone?)
But, in the end, Greg Githens told me: Where it’s weak: regardless of size, companies need a coherent strategy.  The article skips by that point.  Hustle and opportunism does not qualify as a competitive strategy.