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Success for business and business leaders today hinges on the ability to be adaptable; to innovate and take advantage of new opportunities constantly arising in today’s ever-changing markets.
Predictable business planning, strategy formulation and setting goals for the year with rigid precision no longer works and the truly successful businesses are those that are willing to be ahead of the curve and do something different.
How can your business planning better embrace change and the unpredictability of the world we live in?
1. Successes and failures of the past are not the basis of your strategic choices today.
If you are considering bringing strategic plans and goals from last year into the current year, you need to ask – are these still relevant the business this year, or am I trying to make up for past failures or repeat successes of the past? If you woke up this morning and yesterday did not exist, would you create the same, or something different? What would your targets be? Correcting mistakes of last year? Repeating the success, just better? Or would it be to out-create, out-generate and out-do everything you created last year by asking: “What different opportunities and choices exist for the business this year, that weren’t possible last year, last month, or even yesterday?” That doesn’t mean you have to throw out everything you learned previously, just be aware that using the past as your main frame of reference for creating the future will only keep you looking back and not forward. Do you desire to accomplish the goals of yesterday, or be on the leading edge towards a greater future?
2. Business plans, if not fluid, become obsolete very quickly.
Progressive businesses understand that business planning, strategic vision and goals are fluid and need space to change with the world around them. If your mindset is: “We have a business plan. These are the exact tasks we must do, which will be measured and at the end of the quarter or year we will then determine our level of success,” the risk is that automatic pilot will take over which can dramatically reduce the success of your business. If you are trying to act according to a predetermined path, can you really be present for the possibilities that exist today? Business is a living, breathing organism in more ways than we often recognize, and progressive business leaders of the future are aware of the importance to stay connected to and present with their business daily. They tune into what is required for that day as well as being brutally honest about which choices are congruent with the strategic vision and the well-being of the business, without cutting off new information, ideas and opportunities. To make sure you are not running on automatic pilot with your business, ask these questions as daily practice:
– Which project, people or area of the business requires my attention today?
– What is possible today that was not possible yesterday?
– If I were starting my business totally new from today, what would I choose?
– If I choose this, will it be generative or destructive to the business/customers/client-base/employees?
3. Business goals are created as targets – moveable, adaptable with multiple possibilities for hitting the “bulls-eye”.
Here’s the difference between goals and targets that can change the game: With a goal, there is one result in mind–you work tirelessly towards that goal with a singular focus. With narrowed vision, you can lose sight of the overall picture and limit your ability to perceive other opportunities or ideas that could be added or included to create even more. With targets, you can shoot an unlimited amount of times. Rather than being locked onto one goal as your ideal of success, targets have multiple opportunities and inspire you to innovate further each time. Not achieving a goal can create a sense of failure, whereas targets are meant to be shot at over and over, so failure is less likely to be sitting in the back or your mind, leaving space for more generative thinking: “That one didn’t quite hit, what else can we try?” or “Wow, that one worked, now what else can we shoot for?”
4. When change is required, the business changes.
What do you do if your strategy isn’t working? Do you stick to it for the whole year because that is the plan you made, or do you change something the moment you realize it needs to be changed? This is one of the biggest keys to being adaptable and successful in business, and often one of the hardest for people to do! A lot of businesses don’t work out because they aren’t willing to be different today than they were last week, last month, or last year. Kodak is a prime example of what occurs with the unwillingness to change. Most people see change as risk, but future-minded business leaders see opportunity and will not be afraid to change course to capitalize on it. What areas of your business do you think you are avoiding risk, where you might actually be avoiding opportunity? Are there areas of your business you won’t consider changing because you think you have it “right”? What could you choose that would expand all areas of your business in the future–even the ones that are successful today?
5. Everyone in the business is included.
If business planning is done only from the top down, a lot of vital information can be missed. Are you willing to receive the contribution of every single element and person involved in your business? Your customers, clients, partners, your community and employees have a different and valuable perspective. Are you using that to your advantage to contribute your business? There are plenty of studies showing that an engaged workforce is a happy workforce – true engagement occurs when every person knows they are valued and are invited to contribute their unique knowledge and experience. Do you talk to your receptionist about what they know? Do you ask the customer-facing teams about their awareness of how the business can better contribute to clients and customers? Who else and what else can contribute to your business that you hadn’t considered?
The business world is a constantly changing landscape that is exciting yet daunting for those looking for predictability. What if the key to sustainability for businesses and business leaders is to embrace the uncertainty? The only thing certain in life (and business) is change – are you willing to use it to your advantage more than ever before?