I ask a lot of questions.
When I started working at a former civilian employer, one of my critical missions was to move the company into new attractive markets to “future-proof” the company. While that sounds like a pretty daunting task for a newcomer to an established company, I knew that I needed to go back to the basics to get to a viable future. Which meant, of course, asking questions.
• What would a successful (fill in the blank) company look like in the not-too-distant future?
• What should it look like?
• Are we in the right market?
• What does the market look like and where is it headed?
• And finally, what is our plan?
In each case, I was particularly interested in what the company’s leaders thought and what they saw as untapped opportunities in the markets we served.
Strategic Plan Development is Key
Developing a well-thought-out strategic plan is a critical task for senior leaders in any industry, but in a fast-paced, constantly changing technology company it’s even more vital to review the plan often enough to make adjustments as new information changes your course, even just a little.
I recall one key meeting with a company’s senior leaders when the team explained the current direction of the company, which was to capture maximum market share in a particular niche area. The problem was that particular niche was definitely on the decline. Although we knew we needed to hang on to one of our areas of competence, it was also clear that the time had come to make a major shift. A future shift, in essence. Why? The short answer is, winning a bigger piece of a declining market is a long-term losing proposition.
The senior team spent several months working through a strategic plan that amounted to a slight deviation toward a more vibrant, growing market. Once we pivoted into the new market, we enjoyed double-digit growth that would not have been possible had we not adjusted the direction of the company.
Fear and the Temptation to Turn Back
Change is always difficult. People don’t like it at first.
There were several times when we wanted to abandon the new plan and go back to the old one. The draw to go back to the company’s old core competency was attractive for many reasons. It was comfortable. It was what everyone knew. It was predictable. Going back would have been a mistake.
Staying the course was tough.
It took courage to weather the stress of breaking into a new market and focus on new capabilities we needed to develop.
Staying Connected Overcomes Fear
By staying connected to the new strategic plan the team had outlined, we successfully resisted the fear and temptation to abandon ship. The team stayed the course.
Modifying original plans and backtracking is sometimes okay, but it needs to be based upon new, helpful, market-based information. Managing change is a whole lot better than managing a corporate decline.
There is incredible power in staying connected to your plan. Once the plan is solidified, the “rinse and repeat” formula looks like this: plan, execute and make periodic, well-informed adjustments. Stay tethered to the rationale behind the strategic plan. Have confidence in the plan. Stay connected to the plan as each milestone unfolds.
If the company’s senior leadership team doesn’t take the initiative and muster the courage to steer the company into attractive markets, who will?
What is your business capable of?
We are business leaders who know how important — and difficult — it is to make and execute on a strategic plan. What would it take for your business to stay the course?