Friday, July 04, 2008


It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time. - Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

It is amazing how much time and money is wasted on so called 5 year, 3 year and 1 year strategic planning. Who knows how the things will be after 1, 3 5 years? Every year, half the time, companies are doing just that. Looking far ahead than anyone is capable of. They burn enough cash on that. Some companies even have strategic planning departments. They do their best to imagine the future and produce tonnes and tonnes of paper and nobody ever reads or implements them and it is back to usual 'what's the problem of the day?'

Early navigators scouring far out lands knew this. They had figured out that they can see only so far. But they could see their guiding 'North star' all the time in the sky. Using such a star as their reference point, they would recalibrate the course of their voyage once in every few days. What is the 'North star' for business? They are the goals we set for ourselves. They may not be as accurate as 'north star' because 'north star' is not affected by changing circumstances but goal may need to change. But, well defined goals can be pursued over 1,3,5 year time horizons. So, we have goals in the form of 'North Star', we start off with a strategy which will guide as far enough as practical say 1 or 2 quarters and then we take a step back and recalibrate our course. In case of ships, they may have veered away from the defined course for a while due to weather or some other obstacle. It is the time to recalibrate the course by again pivoting the 'North star' as the reference point.

Birds migrate from place to place. They know where they are going. But, do they follow the same route every year? No, they do not if the route they decided on has some problems such as wild fires or something else. They have some inherent GPS which automatically reroutes them. Sometimes they may end up using a shorter route or if the birds think taking shorter route will put them ahead of their schedule, they may choose to temporarily halt so that they can burn up the extra time. That's how we should run businesses. Following the plan blindly is like driving on a pre-defined route regardless of road conditions.


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