We spent time this week in strategic planning discussions. One challenge is how to separate the vision for the future from the desire to get better at existing services.  That is to separate the transformational changes from the incremental changes. Both are needed.

The factor that sticks out to me in both conversations is velocity. The rate at which a company can change and with what purpose will often dictate the how successful or unsuccessful it is in growing business or even surviving.

Blockbuster comes to mind. In 2004, this home entertainment company had over 9,000 retail store locations. In 2010 the company filed for bankruptcy and in 2013 the last store was closed. Home videos didn’t go away. In fact home videos are more popular than ever. But the format and methods by which consumers receive home videos changed quickly and BlockBuster didn’t react with the velocity to stay relevant in the market.

It’s a mistake that almost every company would have made. Hold on to your bread-and-butter while making small changes to adapt. But in this case, the primary generator of revenue for BlockBuster (retail stores)  became almost unused over the span of just a few years.

So how do we approach strategic planning? Certainly there should be an eye for improvements to the core products and services offered by the company. Look at changes to the environment,markets,supply chain, etc. to determine the strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats.

But the vision is just as important. Where are we headed and how do we get there? What intentional decisions are made now to keep the company moving in that direction?

Velocity describes more than the speed of change. It also describes what direction a company is moving. So the velocity of change by a company represents both its strategic direction as well as the speed in which it moves to get there.

I do remember this from the grade school playground. When running a race to see who is the fastest one to the finish line, you can’t win by turning around to look behind you. The winner is focused, dedicated, and always moving straight towards the goal. That sounds like a building block for a strategic plan.