In 2009, when my company was struggling with the financial crunch consequences, our team devised a new strategy. We found a way to a new market segment where our competitors didn't even try to work. We modified some of our products for the new market and believed that we created a game-changer – a new product and new business model. We didn't even realize then how right we were about that. We changed the game, but it didn't make us happy or more successful.
The conventional strategic planning approach implies that a company's leadership somehow "sees", or "predicts" the future and prepares the company by providing some changes in the organization's business practice. Although a lot of research proves that it rarely works well, only a few strategic plans help businesses reach their long-term goals. Many observers believe that future unpredictability is the key issue. Yes, the level of uncertainty is very high nowadays, but it is only a part of the problem.
While formulating strategic plans, wise leaders ask themselves some questions about the future. How will our customers change? What will our rivals do? What new factors can interfere and change the industry landscape? They try to see the picture of the future as clearly as possible. Then, based on the outcomes of these contemplations, they make action plans for the nearest quarters and years. But there is a thing they often overlook.
As soon as a firm switches from strategi planning to implementing, it starts to change this future picture, making it outdated, and the consequences of these changes can be unpredictable and painful for the business. They think about the future as a static picture, but all the actors, including the company itself, influence it. And not only do behemoths like Apple, GE, or Schell change the game, but even relatively small companies can do it.
Back then, in 2009, we were not the market leader. But launching our products to the new market, we paved the road for our competitors. Unfortunately, our products were not perfect, and while we were polishing them, the larger rivals copied our ideas and our business model. Soon we discovered ourselves in the midst of the "red ocean", surrounded by mighty enemies offering our customers similar products for a better price.
Strategy, thus, is not about "seeing the future", because the future is not only unpredictable, it is in the process of constant changes. Therefore, the only way to deal with it is to be flexible enough to get ready for any future.
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