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Where Strategic Planning Goes Wrong

Question:When it comes to strategic planning, where do firms go wrong?


Most firms know that strategic planning is an imperfect process – there are certainly many books and articles criticizing it. But lacking an alternative, companies have stuck to the same approach because it does allow for some degree of accountability. Consequentially, companies are too numbers-driven. They do lots of comparative industry analysis—especially on the competition—and lose sight of the big picture.

Blue ocean strategy offers an alternative. At the center is the four-step strategy visualization process, which can be applied by any organization. The first step is Visual Awakening. Executives are asked to draw their “as is” strategy canvas – a visual representation of their company’s strategy vis-à-vis the competition. This visual exercise underscores the need for change and serves as a forceful wake-up call to challenge existing strategies.

The next step is what we call the Visual Exploration. Here managers go into the field to explore the Six Paths to create new market space. Visual Exploration challenges managers to consider distinct differences of alternative products and services to identify which factors of their offerings should be eliminated, reduced, raised and created.

The penultimate step is the Visual Strategy Fair. Here executives begin to draw their “to be” strategy canvas based on insights from the exploration phase and test these ideas with customers and noncustomers.

After refining the “to be” strategy canvas, the final step is to communicate it in a way that can be easily understood by any employee. This step is called Visual Communication.