Superhero strategic planning

When to be Bruce Banner and when to be the Hulk

It seems like the rate of change in business today is often making your strategic plan outdated by the time your team returns from the annual three-day retreat where you set it.

How can you adjust? Here are three possible ways to modify your strategic planning process to make it more durable in these changing times.

1. Shorten the time span between planning cycles

We’ve all worked on annual plans and created elaborate goals and targets just to watch those plans become irrelevant the first time a major change occurs.

Instead of setting your plan each year, try adjusting it each quarter. Review the original plan and ask two questions:

  • What do we know now that we didn’t know when we set the plan originally?
  • How does that information change how we would like to proceed?

Many times, your adjustments will not be a complete reversal of previous decisions, but significant enough that it gets you much further ahead than you would have been if you had waited until the end of the year to course correct.

2. Think of your staff as superheroes

One of the greatest challenges we’ve seen companies face when implementing a strategic plan is how to focus on large strategic projects when most people in the company are already doing more than a full-time job in their core role? Our answer was to use the analogy of superheroes.

Most of the time, our VPs of operations are like Bruce Banner. He has a well-defined role, executes it well and creates very little commotion. Other times, the business needs him to summon the Hulk and become disruptive and loud, focused on short-term execution on strategic projects that would otherwise never be attempted. Sometimes there’s a little mess in his wake, but he makes progress.

Shortly after, he reverts back to Bruce Banner and all is calm again. It is in his superhero persona that we know we can always create some time to make progress on specific strategic objectives.

3. Stop ideas that aren’t working

Everyone hates when a strategic project falls short, yet we all see that occur more often than we’d like. If you’re only planning once a year, the temptation to hang onto a project long after it was clear it was unsuccessful is high. Encourage your team to shut down projects when you know they are not successful.

Great strategic planning is hard. Successful strategic execution is even harder. Be quick, find your superheroes and stop what isn’t working. It might just take a little pressure out of one of the toughest aspects of running your business.

Sam Falletta has developed successful customer acquisition and retention strategies for some of the largest brands in the world, including Microsoft, Ford, Honda and the American Red Cross.