The End Of Long-Term Planning

At the end of a particularly long and grueling strategy meeting with the executive team of a major consumer services business, Alan, the chief executive officer, turned to me and said, “Living quarter by quarter is madness, but in a few years’ time people will laugh at us for developing three-year plans.” He was right. With the pace of business change today, driven by technology and globalization, long-term plans last about as long as an ice storm in the desert. As military experts put it, plans rarely survive contact with the enemy.

Despite these new realities, many executive teams remain stuck with 20th-century approaches to strategy development. It is still common for companies to take six months or more to develop their new growth strategies. This prolonged, inefficient and largely ineffective approach — involving colossal data analysis projects, the creation of a series of 100-slide decks, and periodic executive meetings where directors are presented with findings and recommendations to comment on – may suit consultants looking to maximize fees, and even some executives who want to look as if they’re in control, but it does little to help businesses succeed in fast-changing markets.

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About the Author

Stuart CrossStuart Cross helps market-leading businesses such as Walgreens Boots Alliance, Masco Inc. and Aimia Inc. to accelerate growth. His new book, First & Fast: Outpace Your Competitors, Lead Your Markets and Accelerate Growth, is out now. Find out more at