Why is the new buzzword in business “pivot”?

For very good reason, because the ability to pivot represents a key indicator that your organization is market-aware, customer-focused, and employee-driven.

But arguably even more important, “pivot” represents the outcome of your organization if it has deliberately developed the speed and flexibility to thrive despite the increasing rate of change.

In a nutshell, “pivot” means business agility.

This 3-part series will help you jump start your ability to respond quickly by up-ending one of the greatest barriers in your way when it comes to business agility: the standard approach used by most companies to strategic planning.

We’ve all engaged in strategic planning retreats in the past… but what about pivoting to a strategic thinking advance? You should always advance instead of retreat!

If you dare, take a minute to read through the quick history of strategic planning below while asking yourself which of these stages your organization is in today.

Strategic Planning: 1920s style

In the early 1920s, Harvard Business School developed the Harvard Policy Model, one of the first strategic planning methodologies for private businesses.

This model defined “strategy” as a pattern of purposes and policies defining the company and its business.

1950s style

Through the late 1950s, strategic planning’s focus shifted away from organizational policy and structure toward the management of risk, industry growth, and market share.

The shift gave rise to such tools as the SWOT analysis model and a portfolio approach.

1960s style

The 1960s brought the industrial economics model.

This new era also highlighted the relative power of customers and suppliers, and threats posed by substitute products and services, new industry entrants and market rivals that dictated competitive strategies.

1980s style

During the early 1980s, the shareholder value model and Michael Porter’s ‘Five Forces’ model became the standard.

The rest of the 1980s was dictated by strategic intent and core competencies, and market-focused organizations.

1990s style

In the 1990s and beyond, strategic planning focused on stakeholder value.

This new shift has included adaptability to change, flexibility, and learning organizations.

Which Stage Are You In?

If your organization is like most of the ones I work with, you probably found yourself identifying strongly with one or more of the approaches from that history of strategic planning.

Yet do any of those approaches feel like the right one in a world of globalization and economic turmoil?

Or do they somehow feel antiquated in light of your business reality today?

If so, the good news is that in a minute we will look at Key #1 to escaping the risks of outdated strategic thinking.

But first we need to review why and how such outdated thinking robs you of business agility.

The Results of Fossilized Thinking

Many of us were taught these approaches to strategic planning, and have dutifully attended the strategic planning retreats, worked through the various models, produced the massive binder full of detailed plans… and then put it on the shelf with good intentions to execute.

Then, business as usual resumes. Sound familiar?

At the end of the year, that planning process typically results in you suffering a lot of missed goals and expectations.

Only in rare cases are the support structures in place to flow the plan throughout your organization and engage everyone in an ongoing process to make it happen.

Only rarely does the plan become a living, breathing force for your organization.

Only rarely is it flexible enough to offer you the right blend of being grounded yet agile.

The Results of Business Agility

In contrast, when you implement the 3 keys to avoiding outdated strategic thinking, you open your organization up to a whole new level of speed and flexibility in planning and execution.

Since this is Part 1 of a 3-part series, we will look at Key #1.

Key #1: Play Your Business Like a Chess Game

Conventional strategic planning is often akin to your organization trying to win a chess game by outlining every move in advance in some all-knowing manual, and then simply working the plan.

Unfortunately, as soon as your challenger does something unexpected, your master plan goes up in smoke. Continuing to play the game the way you thought it would work out will simply result in a loss.

Strategic thinking is what separates great chess players (and great business builders) from the rest, as they identify many potential upcoming moves and select the most advantageous as circumstances evolve.

Strategic thinking takes the time to ask the right questions to identify what winning looks like. It engages everyone in challenging “business as usual” thinking.

And it provides you with the mechanism for a living, evolving plan of action that delivers results.

Here’s how:

  • Ditch the Binder: When I facilitate strategic thinking advances, organizations develop a simple 1-page plan that creates alignment from their organizational goals, to a series of theme statements for each of the upcoming years that help them move confidently in the right direction.By their very nature, Theme Statements will build speed, agility, and flexibility into your organization because they’re direction markers, not carved in stone.
  • Empower Ingenuity: One layer down, we identify no more than 5-7 core outcomes that have to happen during the year, but they are kept at the level of the “what” not the “how” – and ensure that every one of your employees is crystal-clear on the desired outcome so that they can apply their ingenuity to determining the best way to reach it.
  • Accountability: With great freedom comes great accountability. Every employee needs to know where they fit, why they matter, and be held accountable for delivering as promised.With a simple one-page visual, it’s clear who is performing and who’s not, the peer factor kicks in to deal with missed goals and deadlines, and the rate of achievement skyrockets across your organization.

Rethink whether you want to do a conventional strategic planning retreat this year, or make the leap to a strategic thinking advance.

In the next two blog posts, I’ll share more about how to create the transformation from retreating to advancing.

How have you shaken things up to achieve business agility?

What conventional strategic planning approach have you left behind in your company? How have you increased your ability to ‘pivot’? Let us know in the comments below.

#1 Bestselling Author, International Speaker, and Accelerator Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help 5 million business leaders and their teams double their profit per employee – or more – in less than one year, in less time per week than they’re spending on email per day. Her new book Profit in Plain Sight includes the 5-step proactive P.R.O.F.I+T Plan to do it. Connect with Anne on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.