Strategic Planning is Dead. Here are two new ways to face the future

When we read this article by William Vanderbloemen, we knew we had to share it with our audience. William was gracious enough to give us permission to republish his article here on our blog and we invite you to share it widely in your networks.


At my company, we have a front row seat to observe countless types of leadership in action. We’ve had the pleasure of coming alongside some of the most creative and entrepreneurial leaders in the country, and we’ve even been invited to step in and help when poor leadership steers an organization awry. One of my biggest takeaways from my 6+ years at Vanderbloemen is that the leaders who are willing to embrace new ways of doing things are usually the ones who fail a lot – but succeed even more.


There is one area in particular where this holds true. It’s a fringe way of thinking right now, but it will soon become mainstream.


The first leaders to adopt this idea will be trailblazers:

The multi-year strategic plan is dead. And it’s being replaced.


Organizations have operated under 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year plans for a long time now, but there are a couple reasons why they don’t work anymore.


First, technology has obliterated planning the structure of your organization more than a year or two out. The iPhone is about to celebrate its tenth birthday, and Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp aren’t much older. Things move quickly in our current world. Thanks to technology, there are now several aspects of your business that are constantly in flux, such as deciding what should and shouldn’t be outsourced, the structure of your sales cycle, and the best platforms for branding and marketing. You must keep agility and the ability to pivot on a dime as part of the fabric of your organization, and agility has a hard time co-existing with a rigid 5-year-plan.
Second, the fact that millennials now make up the largest percentage of the workforce isn’t conducive to the 5-year plan way of thinking. Millennials are the generation of the slash-career, and they don’t stick with one job and company the way older generations used to. Translation: continuity in your business must be found in other ways, because gone are the days when you build your company via keeping the same employees over a long period of time.


So what’s the new model? How do you keep agility at the front of your organization while ensuring you have some stability and continuity in how your company works? How do you think strategically about the future of your organization without created a 3-year or 5-year plan?


The answer is actually quite simple. You shift your focus to team and culture.


The smartest leaders I’ve seen have quit creating plans that are longer than 3 to 6 months. Instead, they’ve put their energy into building a great team and a sustainable culture. 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.


Beyond that, focusing on building great culture solves the problem of a more transient millennia-heavy staff. If you’re on Year 3 of a 5-year plan and you have to replace personnel, it can be difficult to get a new hire up caught up on where your company is in “the plan” while keeping the pace you set. By keeping plans in the 3 to 6 month range and focusing on culture, you ensure shorter learning curves for new hires and, more often than not, you can see strategies executed in the initial time-frame you intended.


Technology and the new DNA of the workforce have put an expiration date on the old 5-year plan model. By putting team and culture at the core of your organization, you’ll have all the agility you need to adapt to changing market landscapes and can truly build a lasting, healthy organization.


If you are motivated or curious about what impact this shift can have on your organization, feel free to give us a call and we can talk about how you can take steps towards building a great culture and strong structure to support your team.