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The future is on its way. It will arrive tomorrow. Regardless of whether you think of the future as tomorrow or some longer time horizon, hopefully you have a vision for the future state of your company.  The key question is whether you have a strategy to achieve it?  If you do awesome! If not, the clock is ticking. Start the process of strategy development with these steps.

Change and the Future

None of us have crystal balls.  The words of the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus remain true, “All is flux, nothing is stationary.” Change is inevitable.  Technological advances, demographic shifts, mergers, globalization, cause change and impact the future. This means businesses must constantly be exploring how to build and maintain a productive and profitable enterprise. This is the domain of strategy. 

Strategy, per Michael Porter, is a matter of working out your company’s best position relative not just to pricing pressures from rivals (Do what everyone else is doing but spend less money doing it), or do something no one else can do.  This latter approach requires you to consider how to create a new market (think Blue Ocean Strategy), reinvent your business model or finding growth outside your core (such as entering an adjacent market).  

Use strategy to create your future state

The Domain of Strategy Development

There are two primary questions that fall within the domain of strategy.

  1. What do envision is the future for your company?  
  2. How will we achieve this future?

The following 3 steps are designed to help you begin to address these two questions. 

Step 1: Assess and Synthesize. This step takes data. You may need to conduct primary and secondary research.

  1. Current state:  As part of envisioning the future, you need to assess the current state of the world (what’s happening on the world stage; stable, uncertain), the market (what’s happening with your current market; is it growing, stagnating), your competition (what are your competitors doing, what is happening in your ecosystem – is it consolidating, expanding), your customers (where are their pain points and what’s working for them), and of course your company.  
  2. Emerging opportunities:  What lies on the horizon in terms of the world, market, competition, customers. What are some of the primary trends emerging in the world?  What are some implications to industry? You are looking for trends that are relevant to your marketing, your customers, and your company. Some trends affecting our customers for example are the increasing use of automation in manufacturing and automobiles.  The use of drone technology. The growing role of artificial intelligence. The implications of omni-channel in financial services, retail, travel, and hospitality. These are just a few. We live in a dynamic world.

Step 2: Envision and Decide. This is the process of exploring how these trends apply to your customers and your company.  

  1. Brainstorm. What opportunities emerge based on the trends to your customers and your company?Don’t try to determine how viable each opportunity is or whether you can take advantage of it in this step.  
  2. Establish criteria. AFTER you complete the brainstorm step, establish criteria for how you will evaluate each opportunity. For example, criteria related to cost, potential market size, number of existing customers that could be initial adopters, and so on.
  3. Choose a future. Complete your evaluation process and determine what is possible and feasible. Use gap analysis as part of your process.  Then select one or two of the best scenarios.  Commence scenario analysis.  Make a decision for a future direction.

Step 3: Take Action

  1. Make and implement a plan. Identify the key steps for how to realize the future. How well you understand the current situation, the true intent of the market, you ability to validate your assumptions, how well you assess your organization’s competencies and vulnerabilities, are key factors that will determine how successful you are in developing a winning strategy.  Keep in mind that your competitors may be going through the same process. Then it is a matter your creating a viable realistic plan that you can resource and execute. 

As you can see strategy development involves some serious assessment work.  Self- assessments are risky.  Self-assessment are like grading your own homework. There is a role for external experts throughout every phase of strategy development, especially for assessments.

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