Strategic Planning: E Pluribus Unum or In God We Trust?
By Andrew Salzman
Principal, The Chasm Group LLC
On which principle of these two principles is your company strategy founded?
It’s a little known fact that the official motto of the United States since its founding in 1776 was “e pluribus unum”, meaning “one from many”. For some reason, Congress decided in 1956 to change the motto to “In God We Trust”. Call me old fashioned but when it comes to strategic planning, I don’t trust in God.
While there is certainly a key role to be played by a great visionary leader, solid strategic planning is rooted in collaborative planning, not edicts handed down from on high. Having lived through many planning exercises over the years, we at Chasm Group deeply understand that great accomplishments are attained through the collective efforts of many people in many functions…from products, R&D, sales, marketing, alliances and channel management, and the executive suite. Working together with shared perspectives and ground level insights, teams can be assembled to look at a business from both an inside out and outside in perspective to see what should be done, what can be done, by whom, by when, with what ultimate outcomes.
When we help companies execute a properly run strategic planning process, we start with an affirmation of the company’s core belief. Who are we? What is our reason for being? Why should somebody care if we exist? What is our vision? Knowing this, we can begin to frame our fundamental business opportunity. We can start to define our category on our terms. We consider the competitive framework, market conditions, buyer behavior and purchase motivators, and segments where we can lead. We understand and leverage our company crown jewels…those special capabilities we possess…to stand apart.
From here, we can work as a team to define a 1-3 year strategy starting with our key strategic objectives (no, these are not only dollar-based), how we propose to get there, and how the work will get done over defined time increments. This team-based strategy is based on interdependencies, shared responsibility and accountabilities, alignment, focus, and consistency of effort. It is important to secure market and customer-based validation of the strategy to be sure, but the thinking that goes into that strategy requires a collective effort with shared buy-in.
Key target market initiatives…those special focused efforts that will drive success against defined objectives…need to be properly vetted as a team to ensure that the most promising initiatives are perfectly aligned with customer needs and pains, and can be executed with excellence. Well structured workshops comprised of cross functional teams can reveal areas where a company should make a limited number of asymmetrical bets, and serve as a basis to vet and validate with customers and prospects.
Executing strategic planning in this fashion, the e pluribus unum way, sets the stage for operational and functional planning that is focused and aligned. Strategy drives execution, and the right upfront effort in collaborative strategic planning pays major dividends in doing the right things right.
Been down this road before? Would love to hear what you think.
Andrew Salzman is a principal with the Chasm Group, a strategic market consultancy founded by Geoffrey Moore and devoted to helping companies transition disruptive technologies into material businesses. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-812-1925.