Let’s do a quick exercise first. Imagine you are driving abroad somewhere in the middle of nowhere with the GPS as your only companion. You know your destination and as you are driving, you see great, big sign reading ”Destination” 2 miles on it but your GPS is still urging you to continue another 10 miles before turning. What do you do?
Different people react differently to this situation, some taking the immediate turn but others sticking to GPS directions as those have guided us well before. We may have planned our route and we have clear directions to follow but when we are suddenly receiving input, real-time data right in front of us telling us to go another way – What do you do?
Do you stick with the plan (read: strategy) or do you take the opportunity and go explore the new way?
Eric Ries (the man behind Lean Startup) asks us one question – Do you feel that the world around us is getting more and more stable every day? Why do we keep putting hours and hours into business plans when planning is a tool that only works in the presence of a long and stable operating history?
Business planning is dead
Our current operating environment is known about one thing only, which is constant change. We are accustomed to making business plans for 3-5 years and revise them yearly but in the world that I am living (where technology cycle is outpacing planning cycles), things are changing a lot faster. When context changes, you can’t rely on old rules. Basing your decision making for the future on the data from the past is fast becoming obsolete.
It is not all chaos, you know. Even if planning and predicting are no longer viable options, you can still operate a business and approach challenges in a systemic way. Only, this way is focused more on doing than planning.
You can create sustainable value from change and uncertainty by using design tools. There are ways to build focus to guide people and organizations towards their vision and making solid decisions along the way. Having ideas or alternatives is not the problem, it’s quite the opposite. There are far too many choices out there, yet somehow we need to know what choices to make, and how to pivot if we find that we have done a bad choice. If the world has become faster and the loops we hoop are smaller, our decision making and action plan processes need also adapting.
It means accepting the fact that we don’t have all the answers from the beginning. We make hypothesis (preferably backed up by some convincing data), act on it and measure the results. Feedback in its multitude of forms should be our guiding principle. Feedback from customers, from the market and validating our original thinking either true or false needs to be an on-going process, constantly feeding us information on how we are doing and when to change course of action if needed.
This, especially in large enterprises can seem like a daunting task. It is probably not realistic to expect a corporation with several decision making layers to change its operating model and become agile decision makers overnight. But does it mean that you don’t have means or ways to start designing and making better decisions on your own sphere? Who knows, maybe the good practices started in small circles will generate a ripple effect revolutionizing the whole business eventually.
Intead of Planning, Keep Exploring
This fall, Inspired by Digital will be all about innovation, business models and value propositions. I will be sharing in a series of blog posts some super useful ideation tools and insights how instead of planning, you can start designing better business yourself.
These are the themes that keep coming up in various discussions within my network. Innovation is one of the evergreen topics but this time round, it has been spiced up with new technology. We will be covering topics such as how can you ideate and design your roadmap boldly towards the future (one of my personal favorites!) and taking a hard look at our current business models – do you think you will be able to compete with your current business model five years from now? The third theme, value propositions are closely related to the other two. The way we are delivering value or perceiving value has changed dramatically with some new, interesting elements to be explored further.
And I assure you – the outcome of these ideas and exercises will not be a brand new five year business plan.
“Thank you for reading my post. I am a business development professional with a digital twist. If you are interested in reading more about digital transformation, I am regularly updating latest interesting research, books and articles in inspiredbydigital Facebook page and Instagram. You are also welcome to follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.”
Image: Unsplash / Justin Luebke