Strategic Timeframes: How Next-Gen Companies Shape the Future by Living in it
April 17th | 2019

Much has been written about the death of strategy. The increasing pace of business, the complexity of culture and the speed of change are all factors in the diminished effectiveness of strategy and strategic planning over the past decade(s). So today, the prevailing view is that experimentation, adaptability, flexibility and iteration are better tools for companies to utilize.

Strategy is the art of looking and planning ahead

But it makes very little sense to replace looking ahead with simply reacting faster to what comes at you. In any other area — moving faster requires looking further ahead. We learn this as children when we start to run or ride our bikes; we learn this as young adults when we begin to drive. It’s a universal law of movement, our reaction times operate within a fixed and finite range. We can’t dramatically speed them up, but we can adjust our perspective so that we’re able to see things far enough ahead to react to them. Even when they are moving really really fast.

The rejection of strategy or strategic planning in favor of iteration, adaptability and experimentation is very much like driving at 100mph while keeping your gaze fixed 10 feet ahead. You may deal with some of what comes at you, but sooner or later something will come that you can’t react quickly enough to avoid.

Sadly, this is how many companies operate today with results that are just as severe. But just as we’ve seen Next-gen companies separate themselves through category creation, consumer obsession and branding; we also believe that strategic timeframes are one more way next-gen companies differentiate.

Longer-term demographic trends show a re-urbanization of our cities and other metro-hubs.

Yet, unlike original city growth, this is being fueled by older Boomers and Gen X returning to the core after becoming empty nesters and downsizing. These consumers will have increased needs for convenience, and they will also have the wealth to support more convenient services.

It’s clear this is the future companies like Walmart and Ikea are seeing as they transform their businesses from suburban superstores into more urban-friendly showrooms with delivery services built in. It’s also clear that their strategic planning groups identified this opportunity years ago in order to launch their first stores in 2018/2019. This future isn’t here yet but by the time it arrives, these companies will also have the benefit of being first and having used their advantage to learn, iterate and evolve

Traditional companies that prize agility will jump aboard this same trend several years from now when everyone sees it, and while they may be able to execute a bit faster, they’ll never be able to overcome the lead that these two pioneers will have built.

Strategy and strategic planning are far from dead.

With a perspective on long-term future trends, it's possible to see how many companies are building towards very obvious - yet still distant - opportunities. The race for the next several years has, in many cases, already been played out. The longer-term future is still open.