The Business Behind Design

Steven Burns, FAIA, spent 14 years managing the firm Burns + Beyerl Architects, during that time the firm’s earnings grew at an average rate of 24% per year. After creating ArchiOffice®, the intelligent office, project management and time tracking solution for architectural firms, Steve took his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is refining their business strategy and product development.

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Don’t bother planning for the future - it doesn’t care about you

Illustration: Stuart Miles via
Illustration: Stuart Miles via
May 08, 2014

Though strategic planning has helped many businesses move forward, its time has passed. 

So says Economist and Author Bill Conerly in a series of articles. He bases his conclusion on recent conversations with numerous CEOs, who disclose that they abandoned strategic planning during the recent recession and are focusing on execution and becoming more nimble instead.

Why? Because the future didn’t cooperate. 

“In 2008, the economy dove when it was supposed to fly,” he writes. “Technology drove the world in surprising directions.” 

Other problems also contributed to the death of strategic planning, he says. 

“Companies developed plans that said ‘yes’ to every division manager instead of shifting resources to the best opportunities,” Conerly writes. “Strategic plans were not connected to action steps, and when action steps were described, they were in such vague terms that executives continued to do what they had previously been doing.”

He also notes that strategic planning sessions devoted too much time to crafting noble-sounding mission statements that said nothing as well as value propositions that were virtually identical to those of competitors.

“The planning process must address potential changes (in both the internal and external worlds) that would dictate significant changes in business practices,” he continues. “At a minimum every company needs contingency plans for both increased and decreased demand for its products or services. Contingency plans are also needed for major swings in relative costs as well as technological changes.”

Conerly also contends that every company needs to develop flexibility to navigate an uncertain economy.

“Will the company react quickly to major changes in the external environment? Can it expand to serve new customers faster than its competitors can? Can it survive a downturn that kills other companies? This is the ultimate capability on which the future of the business depends,” he writes.

While strategic planning retreats are still valuable, Conerly believes they require a humble attitude about a company’s ability to predict the future and a willingness to adapt.

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