By Robert W. Bradford
Opportunities are one of the three core elements of value creation in strategic management. Unfortunately, most companies struggle with opportunities, because there are few processes (outside of a good strategic planning process) that effectively shape the organization’s response to the ocean of opportunities we have available to us in business.
Here are the most common issues I see with companies who struggle with opportunities:
- Flavor of the month
The “flavor of the month” issue occurs when leaders become infatuated with new ideas periodically. When opportunities can be effectively handled in that short time frame (eponymously, a month), this isn’t bad – but most strategic opportunities require a great deal of time, commitment and funding to succeed.
- Focus on these 20 opportunities
Most teams have a finite capacity for projects, and strategic opportunities are normally very large projects. In the Simplified Strategic Planning seminar, we always tell people to limit themselves to no more than 10 objectives. In practice, I often counsel leaders to pursue fewer than ten – quite often 5 or less. Simply put, pursuing too many opportunities may feel like you are going to hit something – the “shotgun” approach – but normally, this syndrome results in inadequate resources and attention being given to the most critical opportunities.
- Reactive opportunities
This is very common in the B2B world. When big customers dangle a big order in front of us, we often drop everything else and wholeheartedly pursue the big fish. Unfortunately, such reaction is not driven by strategy, but by reaction to customers. In many cases, savvy customers use this response to guide your strategy in a way that increases your dependence on them while decreasing your own strategic flexibility.
- Visionless opportunities
Many, many opportunities are good, profitable ideas that simply make you more money. This isn’t bad, but such opportunities may take you farther and farther from a clearly defined vision of your company succeeding in the future. Imagine the people at Apple putting all of their strategic resources into improving profits in their computer business and missing out on the fundamental changes in technology that made them the success they are today. By ignoring vision, such opportunities don’t just muddy the water – they often take us in completely the wrong direction, or freeze us in place when we need to move forward.
- Long shots
Some leaders simply like risk. This is OK – and clearly, most of us wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t have some comfort with risk – but there are precious few opportunities worth taking a high stakes long shot. Simply put, resist the urge to gamble by betting it all on red. Such bets aren’t the stuff long-term success is made of.
How do you handle opportunities – and do you have processes in place to avoid these common problems? Check out our popular seminar on Simplified Strategic Planning for a no-nonsense, practical approach to strategy that effectively keeps you focused on the right opportunities for building greater profit in your business. Please listen to our webinar: Why my strategic planning isn’t working.
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