Shallow Strategy

The world economy has been hit by some substantial crises in recent years. The pandemic and then, whilst that is still raging in parts of the world, we see a brutal war in Europe with millions of people displaced.

Inevitably this has resulted in increased coverage and discussion of ‘strategy’ in the news, social media and of course in business.

For many businesses strategy had become a little formulaic and incremental. A ‘bit more here’ and ‘bit less there’ and so on. The pandemic changed that for pretty much all businesses with some seeing massive revenue drops, others doing pretty well and then the state stepping in with aid in a way that could never have been envisaged in ‘light touch’ capitalist countries.

Now war in Europe is asking fundamental questions about commodity supply and the interconnected nature of global supply chains. Overlay all that with an evolving climate crisis and we have a truly challenging planning environment for all businesses and countries.

Given everything going on businesses need to break out of shallow strategic planning. Despite the shocks to the world economy there have been signals of changes to come, with important challenges such as resourcing, the potential (now reality) of galloping inflation, a growing world population that will inevitably compete more for raw materials, whether that be energy or food.

The drift to remote working has of course been widely forecasted, migration challenges have been an issue for sometime and in many developed nations an ageing population can easily be seen as posing challenges for resourcing.

Strategic planning tools typically include some form of situational and environmental analysis. Many plans I have seen in recent years step over this and jump straight into revenue projection and planning for exceptional items such as property or technology replacement/investment. There is little that is strategic about this form of planning and businesses will have been hurt by this lack of true strategic vision.

The marketing profession has been guilty of dropping into tactical activity too, a new website, more content, better performance on Google etc.  consume many when they should have been driving the redesign of services and products, raising questions about pricing, looking at delivery mechanisms and shaping their messaging for a new future.

In the absence of others extolling environmental analysis in strategic planning surely marketing professionals should be making a case for it? Perhaps this weakness in the marketing profession comes from a lack of formal strategic marketing planning training? No matter it needs to be addressed.

Businesses need to plan for exogenous impacts, complete a thorough environmental analysis, build some kind of vision for the future and then adjust their business model and messaging to succeed, tomorrow.

Shallow incremental, tactical business planning should always be avoided.

Steve Bedford