This headline popped up in my news feed the other day: “The multi-year strategic plan is dead. And it’s being replaced.”
Bingo! As long as I can remember, businesses have lived by a three-year, five-year and even 10-year strategic plan. Back in my college heyday, I think I even took Business 101: The Long-term Strategic Plan. But in the last decade, business executives have had to accept the reality that new variables are changing the definition of successful strategic planning.
Technology takes charge
Technology changes at warp speed; two weeks after the iPhone 6 comes out, Apple is announcing expected timelines to unveil the iPhone 7. The same applies for the technology we use for our businesses. Technology is no longer on a linear, orderly path; it’s constantly improving, so looking to the past isn’t a concrete indicator for what the future might hold. Forbes contributor Greg Satell tells us that technology cycles will continue to shorten, making planning cycles less realistic and less justifiable:
“Life is substantially different than even a decade ago and completely unrecognizable from a century ago. It used to be that when you entered a business, the past would be a good guide to the future. These days business models have a short shelf life. If you’re planning on the future to unfold at the same pace as the past, you’re likely to run into trouble.”
Today’s technology-driven and technology-dependent world requires agility, not the rigidity of a five-year plan.
Millennials make way
Millennials make up the largest percentage of the American workforce. And like it or not, their way of thinking doesn’t exactly match up with those who wrote the book on strategic planning. Generally speaking, Millennials aren’t going to stick with one job or company the way that older generations do. Keeping the same employees over a long period of time has become more and more difficult, and building a strategic plan reliant upon employee longevity is going to fall flat.
Shift your focus
So, where do you go from here? You shift your focus. As you move away from strategically planning the next three to five years, pay close attention to your team and your culture. Organizational balance and success can be found by finding the right employees (whether long-term or not) who will adapt to and embrace the changes technology brings. William Vanderbloemen shares with Forbes why creating plans longer than three to six months is not worth the time and resources:
“When the focus is on team, rather than a plan, it becomes much easier to adapt at a moment’s notice to the ever-shifting technology landscape. Finding people who are creative and capable in multiple roles and capacities means you don’t have to stress over the structure of your business. By hiring for culture and capability, you free yourself up to change the structure of your company as things continue to change. The structure of your company can always be whatever is most effective for the current market. Agile people make up a capable company."
These new variables, technology and the new Millennial workforce have forced the hand of the five-year strategic plan. You don’t have to rely on long-term planning to build a lasting, successful company; your success lies in shifting your focus to your team, your culture and embracing the changes technology brings.
Scott Carson is the president and CEO at Blue Ocean Consulting, a consulting and technology firm helping companies create digital solutions to solve business problems and drive growth. How have you shifted your strategic planning? Share your thoughts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.