Heads Down is Not the Position for Success


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If anything is certain, it is that change is certain. The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow. Yesterday’s plans are the biggest drag around on the success and growth of our business in today’s times of uncertainty. That’s the thing about change and uncertainty – you can’t plan for it the way we’ve always done it. Why?

  • Yesterday’s buying patterns and market demands will shift before we can execute on that plan.
  • New patterns will come into play in our markets, our buyers and our competition as we’re executing our plan. We’ll often miss them as we keep our heads down following that plan.
  • We can and will miss new opportunities that aren’t in our plans. Even as we continue to chase our known markets with products that may be waning, even as those buyers are leading us into a dead end when it comes to profitable growth.

Those are just three examples of the trouble with planning the way we’ve always done it.

Heads Down is Not the Position for Success

We’ve all been taught to create and follow our business plan. For nearly a decade in the 90’s US business focused on mimicking our friends in the Pacific Rim – seeking the highly regarded 3-5 year planning cycle as a sure step to our success. We trained our MBA’s and B School graduates on the discipline needed to follow those plans, stay the course and be assured of a great result. We created one year, three year and five year plans, instilled discipline in our teams to follow those plans, met every quarter or twice a year to track our progress on those plans – making minor tweaks but knowing that the key to the plans success was to follow that plan.

In slow moving markets and economies, that approach worked.

  • Yesterday’s market behaviors and trends could predict tomorrow’s behaviors.
  • Buyers needed us as their guide in the buying cycle – so we could predict their behavior as well.
  • It took our competitors time to copy our innovation or advance their own. We had time to enhance our innovation and create more.

When the world moves slowly and on a steady course, plans built with a focus on yesterday’s news can work.

That’s no longer the case in today’s world. The discipline to stay heads down following the plan can be the worst position we can choose for success. Our plans can become the tarpits that turn our businesses into dinosaurs. Here’s why.

The Big Shifts

We all agree that today’s uncertain and dynamic markets and economy are a brave new world. Nothing stays the same for very long, and that means we have to learn to dynamically shift too.

  • Yesterday’s behaviors and trends have little power to predict tomorrow’s world. Globalization, immediate access to information, increased competition and empowered buyers created a world where behaviors and trends can appear and change in an instant. Our plans must allow for this shift in our markets.
  • Our buyers don’t need us as part of their buying cycle anymore. They have the power to gather more information about us than we would ever share with them. Access to information about us, our competition and peer experiences serves to accelerate our buyers’ ability to shift their focus and buying behaviors in an instant. We must be ready to shift with them.
  • Our competition is moving fast. Our competition can copy and deliver a duplicate of our innovation in a matter of weeks. That differentiation we have in our plan can disappear that quickly. So how can we follow that plan?

Then there’s our own individual shift – meaning every one of us and our human instincts. In this time of uncertainty – our survival brains are demanding that we find safety and comfort. That means we hang onto the status quo way we’ve always done it for dear life.

In business – the status quo we hang onto is found in our plans. Even as our markets and buyers move on. We’re instinctually and unconsciously driven to stick with what we know. Add the B School and other programming of our business cultures and we’re stuck in that heads down position of following the plan. Even as we go over the proverbial cliff.


Tomorrow we’ll chat about a real world case of hanging onto the plan and how that plan can be the very thing that sends us to crash and burn.

Wednesday we’ll chat about how to shift into dynamic planning that matches our ever changing business and opportunities.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rebel Brown
Rebel Brown consistently challenges the status quo to deliver optimum solutions and high velocity growth for her clients. She combines the strategic expertise and tactical savvy of a global Corporate Strategy, Launch and Turnaround Expert, along with the leadership and motivational skills needed to get the job done.


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