Engaging CultureStrategy & Marketing

Strategic Planning Versus Flying by the Seat of Your Pants

During the current recession, companies have discovered that in a chaotic, disrupted business environment, business plans don’t always work.  As the market changed with lightening speed, marketing plans were tossed out the window in favor of being more nimble.  Walt Shill, head of North American management consultant Accenture says, “Strategy as we knew it, is dead.”  Increased flexibility and making decisions on the fly is the order of the day as executives react to a dramatically changing business landscape.

But before you toss your strategic plans out the window, let me make one important point:  Leaders who are good at flying by the seat of their pants, tend to start with a strategy.  Ernest Hemingway used to counsel young writers that the first principle of good writing is to learn all the rules.  The second is to know when to toss the rules out the window.

He meant that if you have a solid base, it allows you more freedom.  Before you toss your plans, you need to have one in the first place.  So before you think it’s OK to toss out planning and wing it, think again.  Develop a plan.  Work out a strategy.  Then, if the market takes a radical shift, you’re in a far better place for jumping out of the plane.

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  1. Phil, this is head on – not just for the business world, but for life as well. While working with young people, I meet so many who just want to “wing it” and don’t have a basic plan. Whether it’s educationally, financially or spiritually, many youth just want to do their own thing and somehow make it to the top. Yet, the basics have to be in place first, before they can “improvise.” (And this is a lesson we adults need to learn ourselves, as well.)

    Thanks for this post!

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    Author, Speedsuit Powers

  2. Right on Phil!

    Because of the ubiquitous nature of the web and what you call the “change revloution,” it’s very tempting for all of us to throw principle, focus and discipline overboard in the name of flexibility and instant response.  Yes – the internet is changing everything at warp speed – but what does not change is the laws of the marketplace.  Branding, messaging, imaging, audience focus are all contained in skill sets that have to mature and develop over time.  Those who know these laws and apply them with wisdom always win – whatever the venue.

    Because I can does not mean that I should and without a coherent, cohesive strategy I don’t know what I’m doing no matter how responsive and flexible I may think I am!  Good stuff!

  3. I so agree, Phil!  When we talk with clients about strategy, we typically work through one of two scenarios: Either they fear being too restricted by their definition of “strategy”, or it reveals a lack of clear vision for exactly what they want.

    Define where you feel called to go, and dream of some real ways to get there. I think that’s right in line with Jesus’ example of planning and “counting the cost”. Having a clear vision and strategy will actually help organizations stay nimble and focused.

  4. Same principle goes for many great artists. Picasso’s work often portrays a child-like ability to draw but make no mistake about it, the dude was a drawing master.

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