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Which threats are truly strategic – and which threats contain the best opportunities?

By Robert W. Bradford, President and CEO

Strategic Planning Expert Robert W. Bradford

Strategic Planning Expert
Robert W. Bradford

In the thousands of strategic planning meetings we’ve conducted, we’ve run into a fair amount of threats.  Interestingly, some of those threats – even those deemed extremely unlikely – have come to pass with some clients.  One unlikely benefit of these otherwise bad experiences is that I’ve been able to notice three things about threats that will be useful to you in your strategic planning.

First, threats DO happen.  Plane crashes, tornadoes, murder, unionization – they may all seem unlikely when you do your strategic planning, but I’ve seen them all.  Some attention to the truly strategic threats may make the difference between an awful experience and one that destroys your business.  That being said, I’ve noticed that many companies tend to spend an inordinate amount of time on some types of threats, usually seeking to prevent them, while paying far too little attention to the bigger, more strategic threats, which can drive some excellent thinking in your strategic planning.

This leads to the second observation:  Big threats are not always truly strategic threats.   By this, I don’t mean that big threats won’t hurt you, because they will.  But a threat that takes a bite out of your income statement (or worse, balance sheet), pales into insignificance compared to a threat that attacks your market, your product, or your service.  Merely big threats hurt us because of the cost of dealing with them, while truly strategic threats may threaten your ability to continue with the value proposition upon which your business is based.

Not convinced?  Think about what happened to Kodak.  The rise of digital photography – and the depressing impact that had on the film business – was clearly anticipated decades before Kodak’s bankruptcy.  Kodak – despite having the tremendous resources of a Fortune 500 company, simply could not re-engineer their business model in a way that enabled them to remain a viable player.  This threat wasn’t just expensive, it destroyed an entire industry.  If you think this couldn’t happen to you, please remember that every product, service and supply chain is built upon a specific way of doing things that works, profitably, for you today.  There is no assurance that the same, often fragile structure, will survive major changes in technology, distribution and marketing.

Fortunately, there is a third observation:  if you view threats as bad things to prevent, you’ll sometimes get run over by the very steamroller you are trying to stop.  But if, in your strategic planning, you can find ways to turn the threat into an opportunity, you can possibly find a way past every threat you – and your industry – face.  I’m not saying you won’t have to undertake scary and expensive reframing of your business model and value proposition, here, but I am saying that I’ve seen some highly threatened companies survive and thrive by accepting the inevitable threats to their industries and embracing a new approach.

Strategic competencies are inevitably the key to working past industry-destroying threats.  If you are using Simplified Strategic Planning today, you are probably already paying attention to your competencies and how they can help you survive strategic disasters.  If you aren’t, sign up for one of our public programs and learn how you can harness your competencies for greater profitability AND survivability.

If your company needs to improve its strategies, contact us for great, experienced leadership through the strategy development process.  Our highly acclaimed Simplified Strategic Planning approach has helped many hundreds of organizations improve their strategies and bottom line results with effective, actionable strategies.  Please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

Robert Bradford is President/CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at rbradford@cssp.com.
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