The Shelf Life Of Strategic Plans

2017 Jack Ricchiuto



What is the shelf life of strategic plans?

Many organizations resist strategic plans, weary of how quickly they become out of date. Most that still do them shelve them after two quarters because of their premature irrelevance. Over 80% of strategic plans across industries fail.

A couple of years ago, we guided a struggling company product division in strategic planning. Their sales were steadily disappointing in what were believed to be promising global markets. The group was fragmented and diverse. Their sense of the future was dim, which made them far more reactive than proactive. They felt more that their past was their destiny instead of a starting place for renewal.

We used the Agile Canvas model to shape their strategic plan. When we did their first two quarter update, over half of their canvas changed.

The reasons were many. The team changed. They had new talents to understand and engage. They had new learning that inspired reimagining their long view and many of the near view definition of strategic projects. Their achievements opened space for new constellations of known and unknowns. As old problems were solved, solutions led to new problems and opportunities, New questions emerged.

Over the course of the next year, they went from the lowest performing division in the company to a star team with doubling sales that continue. The agility of refreshing their plan every two quarters empowered them as never before. They discovered the power of balancing being responsive and proactive.

The research is that planning assumptions, no matter how valid and reliable, are accurate at high levels for about two quarters, after which their accuracy diminishes. Building strategic plans for two quarter refreshes keeps being strategic continuously resilient and realistic. Smart organizations plan and invest accordingly.