Thursday, May 24, 2007

Strategic Planning - Should you go for the home run?

Every once in a while, when I'm doing strategic planning with a client, we hit a home run. It doesn't happen with every client, and it doesn't happen every year, but it does happen. A frequently asked question is "Should we try to get a home run?"

I have two very opposing views on this. The first is that swinging at home runs can be very distracting and, when you actually get a hit - it can be downright disastrous. One of my earliest home run stories tripled the size of the company in less than a year and brought their strategic planning to a halt. Within three years, the company - partly because they had stopped planning - had serious growing pains, including cash flow issues. The great "opportunity" they had found nearly killed the company! This is not as uncommon as you would think - there is a very real danger of growing your company to death. Also, let's not ignore the fact that, as in baseball, you are likely to have a lower batting average if you are always hitting for the fences.

On the other hand, while most of my success stories are about dependable, steady growth, there are quite a few that were explosive...and that can be the just thing to get a company out of a rut. Certainly, I'm proud of the home runs that worked out well, because they were built on sound strategic thinking and created sustainable competitive advantages.

So my basic answer is this: put most of your effort into your strategic competency, and the strong, steady growth that comes from that. Consider having a project with home run potential on a side burner, especially if it relates to your competency, but don't bet the farm on it. And...if it starts to take off, be very careful of how it will affect the viability of your company in the long term. Strategic planning is an excellent tool for assessing these kinds of situations, and if you are looking for explosive growth - or in the middle of it - you will be well rewarded if you take the time to do a good job of strategic planning.

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