Strategic Planning and Business Models
Every business is unique. The market and industry it operates in, how long it has been around, the values of the owners: all of these things shape your business. At the Great Performances Group, we design responsive and effective systems and tools for growth. This means creating and supporting a ‘customized’ strategic plan and business model for each and every client.
The Great Performances Group approach to Strategic Planning is unique. While we do facilitate traditional annual strategic planning retreats for many organizations, our primary focus is on strategic thinking all the time.
One way to understand this better is to clarify the difference between strategies, goals, and tactics. Many business owners (and consultants) get this wrong, and as a consequence miss opportunities for truly effective strategic thinking.
A goal is not a strategy. A goal is an endpoint, a place we want to get too. How we get there is the domain of strategies. Without goals, strategies are worse than useless. Without clear goals, without the right goals, a lot of strategic work is wasted effort and wasted resources.
We might think that’s obvious, but it is amazing how many people engage in strategic processes before they have really become absolutely clear on what the point of the whole thing is, in an almost painful level of precision. A vague goal is worse than no goal at all because a vague goal comforts us into thinking we have a direction, and we start expending resources to get nowhere.
We start by asking the right questions, by clarifying, reclarifying, and clarifying again, what the real goals of any effort and strategic plan are.
Strategies have two quite different ways in which they show up or how they can be understood. The first is in the context of planning. In strategic planning, there is a sense of design; of making design choices we believe will, as the future unfolds, yield a better outcome than some other design choices. In this understanding, a strategic planner is like the architect of a building being regularly redesigned to better serve its purpose.
The other way of looking at, or being strategic, is as “a pattern in a stream of decisions” (Henry Mintzberg). This reminds us that strategy does not just exist in planning, but in ‘real time’ as well. We can make strategic decisions to minimize risk or maximize opportunities on the fly.
What both forms of strategy share, is they are about making decisions relative to our goals; choosing this way over that way of doing something; of deciding this direction will get us to our goals faster than that direction.
At the Great Performances Group, we support the strategic success of business owners at both levels.
We facilitate strategic planning retreats for boards, management teams, and business units. Our goals in this work are:
- clarity and buy-in on the major goals for the period under discussion
- ensuring alignment between goals and values
- providing tools for a 360-degree perspective on the competitive environment to ensure decisions are made based on the best available information
- identifying and recording actions or tactics that have the best possible hope of executing successfully on the directions chosen
- working with stakeholders to ensure the resources for specific actions and projects are available; that the projects have the highest possible chance of success by reasonably limiting both the scope and the number of actions or tactics for a given time
- designing the strategies and actions in a way that creates maximum synergy, economies of scale, and long-term momentum. This is important in maximizing the ROI on resources used in execution; and
- providing follow-up support to coach the team in the successful execution of the strategies.
If strategies are fundamentally about making decisions, tactics are fundamentally about deploying resources to execute on those decisions. Both words have unshakeably military roots and didn’t appear consistently in business literature until the 1960’s. We have to keep this in mind as we use these words because when we use them, their origins shape our thinking and our actions. They are not neutral.
We support boards, business owners, and managers in the effective deployment of resources. We define effective as:
- getting as close to our goals as possible
- using the fewest possible resources (avoiding waste, in the Lean sense)
- having the maximum number of possible secondary benefits (an effective human resources tactic should minimize turnover and maximize customer value)
- being responsive to what is rather than what should be – this implies understanding how to acquire, interpret, and act on good data from our environment
Business Model Design
If strategy is tough for some people to define, business model is even harder. It seems to mean as many different things as there are academics and consultants. For us, a business model is a schematic: a representation in words and images, and finally as a structure in the real world, that represents how you make money by creating value for customers.
When we bring a business model and a business strategy (or specifically a competitive strategy) together, we also define how you are both different from, and better than, your competitors.
A business model is plastic, in the sense that it must be responsive to the competitive environment. New costs, new competitors, new kinds of customers, new technologies, and more, all change how effective your business model is, and inevitably demand a redesign.
A business model design must consider the following areas:
- value: truly understanding how your customer defines value
- relationships and communication: what does your relationship with your customers look like?
- delivery: what are the processes and partners involved in delivering value to your customers?
- costs: what are the costs, both direct and operating, of delivering value?
The advisors at the Great Performances Group can help you design and review your business model to ensure you are delivering maximum value for minimum cost, and doing so sustainably.
Just as importantly, once the business model, strategies, and tactics have been committed to paper, stakeholders brought on board, and the work has begun, our advisors will work with your team monthly, quarterly, or annually to minimize drift and drag and maximize commitment and momentum.