Three Ifs From A Maybe: Just-In-Time-Strategic-Planning

I was talking to a very smart, pragmatic, startup founder who had laid out his strategic plan to me as if it was a master plan for a chess match.  He had anticipated all the possibilities, run scenarios on changing the market and economic conditions, anticipating competitive countermoves… he had thought through it all.  When I asked him why he had decided on a certain go-to-market play, his response made me gasp.  He had planned for a contingency that was 3 ifs away from a maybe.

He was making a plan for the multiple contingencies including:

Action Steps If Count Maybe Count
If Google+ starts to gain traction 1 0
and if that traction translates to a loss of Facebook eyeballs 2 0
and if Facebook realizes that they require a Google+ SEO counter punch 3 0
then maybe they would want to purchase us 3 1


…and there you had it, just like that, he was 3 ifs away from his maybe.

There’s planning and there’s over-planning.  There’s strategy and there’s stalemate.  There’s thoughtful measured progress and there is action.  There’s” slow and steady wins the race,” which worked for a fabled tortoise racing a mythical hare …yet of one thing I am certain and that is a slow-moving tortoise startups gets served-up as turtle soup to market the market-leading gorilla they attempt to displace.

Business is war and as George Patton said,

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week”

Speed and agility, the ability to turn on a dime are keys to startup victory. Lean startups need to extend their lean strategies beyond product development. Agile startups must be like pesky PT-Boats that wreaked havoc on larger, slothier, WWII naval vessels.

Instead of planning for 3-Ifs-From-A-Maybe scenarios, set long-term goals.  What’s your exit? What’s your end game?  Is it IPO? Is it being acquired? At what value? How much revenue are you going to need to get that valuation?  Have a long-term goal and long-term targets.

Set a goal, a destination, and then head in that direction. Use your goals to guide you as you meet each fork-in-the-road.  As the market changes, as market leaders make surprising counter moves, be the swift PT Boat to their cumbersome destroyers.  Run circles around them. Pester them. Use speed and surprise to strike and avoid being hit.

Have a long-term goal, focus on that goal, apply it towards just-in-time strategic planning.  Your goals are your compass, they are the stars to which you navigate.

Spend less time anticipating that which may or may not occur.  Devote your time to developing a lens to aid you in making swift, just-in-time decisions.

If you’d like to learn more about developing a Just-In-Time Strategic Planning system for your company, leave me a comment and let’s start that discussion now!