How to Avoid Future Shock

Too many senior executives get strategic planning wrong because they don’t know how to interpret trends, says consultant Daniel Burrus

What’s wrong with how most companies create a business strategy?

C-suites spend a lot of time focusing on execution. The problem is they may not be executing on a full strategy. Too often, a strategic plan is a static document. We have a meeting and write it up, including objectives, goals, time lines and accountability. But then it’s fixed in time until the next time we have a strategic planning session and come up with a new one. We need to make the strategic plan alive in the minds of our people.

If you ask somebody, “What’s your strategic plan?” we don’t want them to say, “Just a minute. I’ll find it on my computer.” That means they’re not living it.

Traditional strategy focuses on scenario planning. “If this happens, we’ll do that.” But people fail to realize there are two types of trends: hard and soft. Hard trends will happen. Soft trends might happen.

What’s a hard trend?

A hard trend is going to happen whether you like it or not. There are three prime drivers of hard trends: technology, demographics and government regulation. When there’s a law passed, pay attention. It’s loaded with hard trends that give you amazing opportunities if you pay attention. Will we be able to use cell phones and tablets to tap into a Watson-like supercomputer? Yes. Will we be able to use mobile devices to tap into logistics and supply chain systems? Yes. So why are you waiting?

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