Strategy When You Don’t Have the Time

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Things have been going great. You’ve had the product customers want, and they’ve been willing to pay you handsomely for it. It’s been nothing but sunshine up until now. But dark clouds are forming fast on the horizon. A storm is coming, and you’re exposed.

Maybe the serendipity that gave birth to your company is about to run out of steam, and you have no idea what you’ll do for a second act. Or perhaps you’ve just been smacked with a major market disruption. Or heaven forbid, the marketing team has been so mired in the maw of sales support that they’ve failed to plan for the future… and the future has just arrived.

You realize that lapses in strategy development rigor have created this situation. But that’s water under the bridge. You need to fire up the organization to outrun this storm and get back to the place where the sun shines.

A crisis is no time to get religion and embark on a drawn-out by-the-book strategy development process. Instead, you need to fast-track the organization into action by taking these four steps:

  1. Define a framework
  2. Populate it with what you know
  3. Start executing
  4. Validate and adjust

Define a Framework

A strategy framework is nothing more than a place to record environmental data, situation analysis, and strategy decisions. It’s a fill-in-the-blank template that asks all the questions to be answered when formulating a strategy.

For the environmental analysis, your framework should have a place for:

  • Market drivers
  • Market size, segments, and growth
  • Market’s top spenders
  • Technology trends and disruptions

The situation analysis section needs to capture:

  • Market position
  • Position vs. market requirements
  • Competitive position

And finally, the strategy section must record your:

  • Vision and objectives
  • Market strategy
  • Competitive strategy
  • Platform and product strategy

Having a framework is the only way to be sure the organization knows exactly what you mean when you yap, “I need a strategy, and I need it now.”

Populate with What You Know

At this point, the academics would have you embark on an extensive research and analysis effort with all the data checked six ways to Sunday. But you don’t have that kind of time.

Instead, your next step is to populate your strategy framework with what you already know. You’ve been talking to customers, attending conferences, competing, preparing for board meetings, reading the industry rags, and more. You already know a lot. Write it down.

You can likely pull off a respectable environmental and situation analysis without a single moment wasted sitting on an airplane. And with that under your belt, you can formulate an action-worthy revision A of your strategy.

Start Executing

Since your fast-track strategy has not been externally validated, you have likely gotten something wrong or have missed a critical data point or two. But there’s a very high probability that you are on the right track.

It is much better to get the organization moving in a somewhat correct direction than to have them sitting on their hands waiting for perfection.

Don’t wait. Start driving revision one strategy execution the moment the ink is dry.

Validate and Adjust

Now, it would be strategic malpractice to drive the organization to an unvalidated strategy for very long.

You do have to go back and externally validate your data, analysis, and decisions. The result of this effort will invariably result in the need to update and adjust your strategy. But it will likely be a matter of adjusting your vector, not a wholesale change in direction.

Suppose those metaphorical storm clouds appeared on the southern horizon. In response, you immediately started running north. But later, after validating the storm’s direction, you determine that you should have been running northeast. You make a small adjustment and keep running. No problem. You still have more distance between you and a lightning strike than if you had chosen inaction until the confirmed weather reports had arrived.