Strategic planning in turbulent times: Is it still relevant?
Over the past few years, companies faced volatile business environments all while keeping up with sustainability requirements, workforce and customer behavioral changes, and market trends. Because of the turbulence of the business environment, the role of strategic planning becomes even more essential to the survival and growth of any business.
As John Child defines it, business volatility is “the degree of change which characterizes environmental activities relevant to an organization’s operations.” According to the 2023 Global Trends Brief, these are some of the components that caused disruptions and unpredictability in the business environment:
- Post-COVID-19 effects
- Ongoing Russia-Ukraine war
- High inflation rates
- Supply chain disruption
- Low global GDP growth (under 2%)
- Rising prioritization for mental health and work-life balance
The traditional strategic planning process, according to Jean Dieudonne, strategic planning lead at ANZ, includes a three-to-five-year plan with actionable steps to achieve long-term goals. However, businesses must rethink this to adapt and deal with turbulent times.
One of the leading providers of energy solutions worldwide, bp is currently investing in low-carbon solutions. The 2023 edition of the bp Energy Outlook, as outlined in this year’s annual report, has identified two turbulent factors: the Russia-Ukraine war and the US Inflation Reduction Act. Given the unpredictable nature and potential enduring impact of these events on the trajectory of the national and global energy systems, the organization’s strategic planning process becomes even more essential.
Accordingly, bp proactively monitors the external environment and regularly updates its strategic plans in response to these external signals. They employ scenarios from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s “Climate Analysis Reference Approach for Companies in the Energy System” to assess and validate their strategy. This proactive approach enables them to seize opportunities and navigate challenges in turbulent times. The leadership team and board review the strategy, capital allocation, risks, and opportunities, making regular updates as needed. Also, to successfully go through the fast-changing business landscape, they monitor key indicators and metrics, including policy developments, renewables capacity, electric vehicle sales, and low carbon technology costs.
Another company that had to deal with turbulence in the business environment is Saudi Aramco Power Company, which has incorporated risk assessment into its strategic planning process. Projects go one by one through a structured decision process that includes rigorous risk assessments and value assurance evaluations, and each strategic scenario is stress-tested to ensure positive results in any business environment.
Strategic planning will always stay relevant, and the selection process for strategists should be of critical importance. Also, choosing the right resources to strategize and execute plans with is like choosing friends to accompany one in a dynamic environment—an escape room, for instance. Choose those that can be effectively utilized or leveraged for a specific purpose.