Strategy is dead, again

American War Cemetary - Remembering by tienvijftien (cc) (from Flickr)
American War Cemetary - Remembering by tienvijftien (cc) (from Flickr)

Was talking with a friend of mine this week and he said that strategic planning has been deemphasized these last few years mainly due to the economic climate.  We have discussed this before (see Strategy, as we know it, is dead). Most companies are in a struggle to survive and had little time or resources to spend on thinking about their long term future, let alone next year.

Yes, the last few years have been tough on everyone but the lack of strategic planning is hard for me to accept.  As I look around, products are still being developed, functionality is being enhanced, technology continues to move forward.  All of these exemplify some strategic planning/thinking, albeit prior efforts from 24 to 30 months ago.

Nonetheless, development has not ceased in the interim. New features and products are still being planned for introduction over the next year or so.  Development pipelines seem as full as ever.

One could read the apparent dichotomy between deemphasizing strategic planning but continuing to roll out new products/enhancements as indicating that strategic planning has little impact on product development.  Another, more subtle interpretation is that strategic thinking goes beyond near term product improvements to something longer term, perhaps outside the 3 year window we see for current product enhancements.

In that case, then the evidence for reduced strategic planning will not show up until a couple more years have passed.  Thus, we should eventually see a slow down in new or revolutionary technology offerings.

Such a slowdown is hard to view.  Apple seems to introduce a revolutionary product every 4.5 yrs or so (iPod ’01, iPhone ’07, Ipad ’10).  Other companies probably have longer cycles.  But any evidence for a strategic planning reduction may ultimately show up as a slowdown in the rate of new/revolutionary product introductions.

Other potential indicators of decreased strategic planning include margin erosion, loss of core competencies, reduction in market value, etc.  Some of these are objective, some subjective but they all sound like a better topic for an MBA thesis than a blog post or at least my blog posts.

For example, Kodak over the last 15 years or so comes to mind as a strategic corporate catastrophe playing out.  They almost invented digital photography/imaging.  But for whatever reason they failed to react to this coming transition until it was too late.  The result is a much diminished company of today, e.g., over the last 15 years their stock price has been reduced by a factor of 12X or more.

There are probably many more examples of both business strategy failure and success but from my perspective the choices are obvious:  Ignore strategic planning for too long and your company struggles to survive or implement strategic planning today and your company may thrive.

What other examples of strategic failure and successes can you think of?