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How do you know when it’s time to change your strategy?

You’ve probably wondered from time to time whether your business is maximizing its performance. Worse, you may be worried about what the future might hold — even if everything is humming along at the moment.

You’re right to be thinking about it. Competitive advantage is fleeting, as scores of businesses and industries will attest. Your industry could be threatened by a disruptor, or the threat could be coming from within; management may be holding onto conventional wisdom that is no longer appropriate, or underestimate the impact of changes in the environment.The phenomenon of the “burning platform” exists when a crisis is the only thing that will convince someone to take seriously the need for a new strategy and to mobilize to ensure its swift execution.

And when you wait that long, you diminish your chances of success. Take the well-known example of Blockbuster. They failed to read the threat of Netflix, and ended up with a burning platform. Eventually, they tried to introduce mail-order movie rentals, and later, even movie streaming. It was too late.

The vaccine for preventing the need for upheaval is the practice of continuous monitoring of your internal performance and your external environment.

  • Do you have the right metrics in place to monitor strategic initiatives and daily operation? When is the last time you re-visited them to see whether they are serving as reliable indicators of your growth or financial health?

  • Are you regularly monitoring your customers, competitors, distribution channels, and environment?

  • Do you devote resources to looking further into the future by tracking and monitoring signals and trends that signify shifts or opportunities?

  • Do you invest in capability building in key domains to ensure your ability to be proactive, as well as adapt quickly in a crisis?"

If so, congratulations. Many of us are prone to the lull of complacency, and susceptible to a lack of urgency, or perceive internal barriers to change as too high to actually make a change. Commit to a continuous scan: notice, analyze, and respond appropriately. In many cases, you may find a strategic shift is necessary. In others, committing to a few strategic initiatives to test and learn may be sufficient inoculation.

But ultimately, you’ll find either of these more successful than choosing between a burning platform and a freezing sea.


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