On a mostly sunny late afternoon last week, Peter Senge
and I crossed paths at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, where he was vacationing with his family, and I was attending a management retreat. As frequent readers of the Inspired Protagonist know, I’m a huge fan of Peter’s. During the conversation he shared two thoughts on strategic planning that resonated with me since that’s what I was in Stowe trying to do.
The first was to never try and reduce all the focus and activity in your business or organization to what is clearly stated in your formal goals and objectives. Aside from the fact that you’re unlikely to succeed, much of the great, innovative stuff will come from the swirl that happens outside your formal structure. At Google they formalize the swirl and expect you will spend a certain number of hours in it, but at most companies it just happens, and it’s a good thing. The challenge is determining how much time and resources should be taken up by it! And that’s hard to calculate.
The second was the idea that in the strategic planning process the short term (1 to 3 years) and the long term (6 years plus) are the easiest to deal with. Momentum from the present state usually will determine and fill up most of what will happen in the short term. The long term is so far away that anyone will agree to almost anything. But the mid-term, the 3 to 5 year time horizon, is often the most difficult. That’s where you need to commit resources today to ensure that truly new and innovative projects, products and activities can materialize in the future. It’s where you have to be clear about what you want to become rather that just continuing who you are.