As we ease into the end of the year, you are likely deep in the throes of your strategic planning process. I spoke to one person who was pulling her hair out last week because it was so clear that the leaders were not aligned on even how the process should work. 

In The Disruption Mindset, I gave an example of how the start-up Voicea (who was just acquired by Cisco) used a quarterly planning process, with an evaluation of the changing landscape. Having a clear process allowed them to repeatedly and smoothly conduct a strategic review every three months. 

Take a look at your planning process and ask yourself—are you *really* doing strategic planning, looking out far into the future and developing scenarios for how it will unfold? Or are you really planning your annual budget? These are not the same!

The best practices that I have seen are to separate strategic planning from setting the annual budget. And ideally, to move strategy planning from an annual process into one that is continually scanning the market, with a deep review every 3-5 years. 

The key is to realize that setting the strategic objective requires that you look several years down the road and to clearly align around that future. But instead of only one future, you use scenario planning to develop multiple paths and use war gaming to plan out your potential responses. 

This requires a broad market scan, testing hypotheses, and putting in place a mechanism to constantly and consistently feed data back into your scenarios. Knowing how the short term connects to the long term, you can then go into your portfolio of growth moves and line up the financial resources and people against those moves. 

This is only one way to approach strategic planning, but it’s one that allows you to think disruptively because you center your strategy on the future, and in particular, serving the needs of your future customers. I hope you can see how incorporating your future customers into your strategic planning process is crucial. 

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There is also software that can help manage a disruptive strategic planning process. I haven’t had hands-on experience with all of these, but several people have mentioned Cascade and Planview as examples of software-supported agile strategic planning. 

The strategic plan isn’t something that’s stuffed into a binder and placed on a shelf — instead, it’s a living, breathing entity that’s closely connected to everyday execution. Even better, everyone can see how they are each contributing to the overall strategic objectives of the company. 

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