VOICES: Ian Chamandy & Ken Aber — Strategic planning and the “5 Degree Rule”
Posted by Hilary Craig on July 21st, 2011
Ian Chamandy and Ken Aber (@7wordsorless) of Blueprint Business Architecture share their thoughts on their specialty, strategic planning, and the process that must go into a successful strategy. In this edition of Voices, they share the very first question one must ask in the process of creating a strategy. Here is their blog piece which can be found on their website, Blueprint.
Check out their last Voices piece, Finally revealed: Which half of your advertising works!
Strategic planning and the “5 Degree Rule”
by Ian Chamandy and Ken Aber
When we met almost seven years ago, we had many conversations about business. The one we had about the fundamental flaws in strategic planning was the most influential in terms of inspiring us to go into business together and create Blueprint.
We had both been involved in the strategic planning process with our clients over the years, either leading it, being a part of it or being directly impacted by its outcomes. The tradition process follows a familiar format: you design an agenda, you go away on a two day retreat (it is always two days, no matter the size or category of the company!), you grind through the agenda, in the breaks people whisper in the shadows about what a wank the process is, people go back to work on Monday cheering “Rah, rah! New plan!” and by Thursday they are back to the same old, same old.
We knew planning was broken and set out to fix it, but we had to understand first what was broken. At its simplest level, strategic planning answers two questions: where are you going and how will you get there? The process is linear in that you have to determine where you are going before you figure out how you will get there. You would never say “I am going by snowmobile” and then say “I am going to Cuba”!
What we realized is that these are questions #2 and #3 in a three step linear process, and that the first question – “Who are you?” – is almost never asked, or the process for answering it is so superficial or dysfunctional that it renders the answer meaningless. Then you suffer from what we call the 5 Degree Rule: if you are off by 5 degrees coming out of the gate, you will be off by 45 degrees by the time you are a couple of miles down the road.
So if you are sitting in, or contemplating, a strategic planning process and you know it is just the same old, same old, it is likely because you don’t have a clear, concise and compelling answer to the first question: “Who are you?”
Next: Why knowing who you are as a company is so important to your future