Numerous strategic planning tools exist that are academically sound, but they fail to take a “topographic” view of the issues. These tools give you a flat approach that leaves one falsely believing that the shortest distance between a problem and a solution is a straight line. .. It’s not.
By taking a “Corporate Topography” approach – topography being defined as the detailed description of natural and artificial obstacles – strategy takes on a more realistic perspective. Regulatory, political, financial, legal, and even religious barriers exist that stop a company from succeeding. No flat SWOT analysis or Ivy League professor can strategize well if they see the world as flat. If you want your business to thrive, then allow your problems to be escorted with a process – one which asks seemingly simple questions that are very hard to implement.
1 WHO are the right people to help the company? The answer goes to the heart of organization trust. For some enterprises, the right people are multi-disciplinary; for others, they may be as specific as a maverick product development team. Articulate what your end result needs to be and surround yourself with action-minded teammates.
2 WHAT are our competitive differentiators? This does not necessarily refer to your strengths, but rather your differences. The marketplace is diverse. Some customers are seeking a low-cost alternative; others desire a company that focuses on sustainability. Differentiators come in all shapes and sizes.
3 WHERE are the antagonists to our goals? Identify who will selfishly survive to the detriment of the team. An excellent example is the advent of new technology. The technology may produce tremendous economic benefit for the company, but does its implementation put certain jobs in jeopardy? Seemingly loyal employees will fight change.
4 WHEN does this business need to launch, expand, or sell? Timing, a sense of urgency, is the end all and be all. The single biggest threat to innovation and growth is delay. Be pre-
pared to launch with speed and accuracy.
5. WHY will this value proposition thrive? People are long on ideas and short on implementation. Businesses need to be more than novel, they need to be in demand.
6. HOW can we accomplish our goals with integrity? Now, more than ever, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability require a transparent vision, one that stands tall in the face of the most polarizing era of modern times.
About the Author: Peter A. Levy, a partner at Mandelbaum Barrett PC in Roseland, is the creator of “Corporate Topography,” a strategic planning tool creating innovation and growth. He was a Deputy Integrity Monitor for the construction of the Freedom Tower and is a frequent speaker on emerging technology, board governance, and business processes.
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