Keys to Survival and Errors to Avoid in Developing a Strategic Plan

A couple of years ago, I read the book Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales. I had intended to take this book with me on a one-month vacation, but as soon as I started to read, I became immediately hooked and finished it before I left!

Gonzales examined several real-life, outdoor adventure situations and studied the differences between those who lived, those who died and why. As an avid outdoor enthusiast, I was fascinated by the true stories of life and death, but it dawned on me how much his findings relate to the success or failure of organizations and the importance of a well developed strategic plan.

Let’s look at keys to survival, errors to avoid and how they connect to an organization’s strategic plan.

Strategic Planning

Keys to Survival

Preparation.  There are a number of key characteristics to survivors. Generally speaking, they are well prepared and know what they are getting themselves into. They have studied their environment, they have a goal, a plan, but they also have some contingencies in mind. In instances where the issue they face could not be anticipated at all, they rely on the next two survival tactics.

Attention to the environment. Paying attention to the environment is key – whether you’re set on climbing the Everest and factors in the environment signal the risk of avalanche, or whether the parameters of the business world are evolving and signaling a change you need to address.

Appropriate action.  Survivors pay attention to their environment and make decisions regarding the appropriate course of action based on what they observe. They do not ignore the problems. As the environment changes, they demonstrate versatility – the ability to perceive what is really happening and adapting to the new reality.

Errors to Avoid

Low impulse control. We can also learn from the stories that don’t have a happy ending. The non-survivors lack impulse control (it’s a beautiful day, the risk of avalanche is extremely high, but we can’t resist the temptation to go up the mountain on our snowmobiles…).

Lack of flexibility. Non-survivors are also characterized by rigidity. They are inflexible in their plans or stick to their goal in spite of what the changing environment would dictate.

Developing and Nurturing Your Organization’s Strategic Plan

In today’s ever-changing business environment, preparing, scanning the environment and selecting the appropriate course of action is critical. Developing a strategic plan is a useful way to accomplish this. When implementing the plan, continuing to pay attention to the environment, resisting impulses, while remaining flexible and taking the appropriate actions in response to what you are learning are all keys to long-term survival in business and in life!