Andy Robinson is the senior vice president
for ICF International, Washington, D.C., USA.
He has worked in management consulting for
over 20 years.
Look outside your enterprise and identify potential trends, opportunities and risks that might
affect your organization. Third-party research
definitely will help answer these questions. I never
start a strategic planning exercise without first
understanding what the researchers are reporting
and predicting. I look for economic and marketplace trends, technology trends, business drivers
and anything that will enhance my understanding
of what’s next. And yes, I review our competitors’
websites and review what services and markets
they are emphasizing. After examining what
competitors are doing, you can begin developing
a responsive strategy that incorporates the external environment analysis. A strategy that doesn’t
acknowledge and anticipate external influences is a
recipe for folly.
For example, when it became clear that federal
contracting methods were going to significantly
change, we took aggressive steps to update our
strategy. We made strategic partnerships with small
businesses to bid under their prime contract. We also
created an office focused on acquiring government-wide contracts. These both led to mitigating the
effects of the changing contracting environment.
We avoided the meltdown that many of our
competitors faced. Instead of seeing major change
as bad news, we turned a risk into an opportunity
and grew sales when nobody else did. The lesson
is clear: Adapting strategy to a changing world
not only drives results—it can save an organiza-
tion’s life. PM
The world’s accelerating pace of change chal-
lenges every organization—whether in the pri-
vate or public sector—to seize opportunities and
manage risks. But many organizations struggle to
adapt, because they’re unable to recognize how
change generates threats and opportunities.
What, then, should the rational organization do?
Answer: Embrace change and develop strategy.
All companies struggle with developing strategy. It’s difficult to predict the future and develop
a plan that capitalizes on market conditions and
opportunities. But if you understand exactly what
you’re up against, it becomes more manageable.
Spend some time analyzing the macro business
environment. I like to ask myself a few questions:
n Where is my market going, and what influences
will be felt in the near and long terms?
n How might technology play a different or larger
role in the future?
n What will my clients want or expect in the future?
n How can I innovate to change the value equation?
All the above questions require research and
analysis from different sources. I have always used
my interaction with clients and employees to gain
a sense of what’s new.
For instance, in the mid-2000s I started a cyber-security service for the U.S. federal government.
The organization’s strategy was based on third-party research and corroborated by discussions
with employees and clients. It may seem coun-terintuitive to gain macro insights from frontline
employees and clients, but that’s often where you
first find such wisdom. So ask your clients or team
members: What influences do they see impacting
the organization, and what is their vision for coping with a changing landscape?
To create a strong strategy, organizations first
need to know what they’re up against.
BY ANDY ROBINSON