Bar Charts and Bar Bills – John Acton

’Tis the season to be jolly and planning for an epic 2022. Hopefully, we’re all going to kick on and ‘smash it out of the park’ in our businesses next year, thriving, as we say goodbye to another difficult year and even better if we can, finally, say goodbye to COVID-19.

While we’re all excitedly anticipating a proper no-lockdown family Christmas this year, what I am seeing, sadly, is a lot more attention being paid to the office Xmas party than “how are we going to smash 2022 and beyond?” I sound a bit Grinchy, apologies for that.

I’ve observed that far too many businesses have a box ticking exercise when preparing their 2022 strategies. They ask various functional heads to pull together this year’s numbers followed by next year’s projected numbers and then spend an afternoon talking through the bar charts and settle on a strategy that’s pretty much an extrapolation of this year’s. Maybe this could just about pass for ‘strategic planning’ (although I think it’s a bit of an excuse for it) – BUT it is not Strategic Thinking.

After this exercise, it’s the company card behind the bar and having some fun, finally, at the Christmas party. By the way, absolutely nothing wrong with having some fun after the 21 months we’ve all had, everyone deserves it.

So, for many it’s “Bar Charts and Bar Bills,” yet there is another way that is far more effective and productive. 

Invite all of your key people, representing all areas of the business and collectively follow a proper process to answer the following key questions:

  • What’s our current profile? In other words what success have we enjoyed re our products and services? Customers or users? And industry sectors or geographical areas? What failed in these areas? What can we learn from these important successes and failures?
  • What does the future business arena look like for our industry over the next 3 years? How is the arena in which we trade changing? How can we react and leverage this predicted change better than our competition?
  • What does our extended marketplace look like? How might it change? And who are the influencers going to be? How can we start to influence these influencers?
  • What’s the competitive landscape going to be like? Any new entrants or disruptors?

Once you have a clear view of the present and the future you can review your relative Strengths & Weaknesses and your Vulnerabilities, Threats and Opportunities.

There is so much more to proper strategic thinking. Don’t leave it to chance. Harness the wider leadership team and follow an effective process.

I’m confident if you do, the “bar charts and bar bills” at the end of 2022 will eclipse this year’s. Enjoy the festive season and have an epic year everybody.