Ebenezer Scrooge teaches us about Stage 2 planning

19 December 2012
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Picture this…

A friend of yours runs a successful Stage 2 business – but is also frustrated
that things aren’t going as well as he’d like.  It’s your job to set him
on a new path.

How do you create that inflection point – that clarity of understanding and
focus that sets a new path and provides the basis for success?

Let’s look at how it works for Ebenezer Scrooge, because if ever there was a
tough customer for a strategy consultant to work with (cheap! close-minded!
domineering!), he is one.  But Scrooge’s consultant (the ghost of his
former business partner) designs a great process that holds lessons for any
business leader.

He starts with a look at the past (fond memories of Scrooge’s childhood).
What core principles show up then that Scrooge needs to reconnect with
today?  What lessons does the past hold for Scrooge?

He then looks at today, from different perspectives than Scrooge usually sees
(a joy-filled market, a family feast, a miner’s cottage).  What can
Scrooge learn from those people?  What is happening outside of his normal
view that he can use?  What does Scrooge have to offer those people?

And finally, he looks at the future to see where Scrooge will go if he
continues on his current path (a neglected grave!).  What are the results
Scrooge will get from his present efforts?  What results does Scrooge
want?  Do the likely results line up with the desired ones – and if not,
what needs to change?

With a process like that, it’s no surprise that Scrooge emerged a new
man.  Full of energy.  Renewed with purpose.

The Wikipedia entry
about Scrooge’s transformation sums it up well, capturing both the immediate
impact and the long-term sustainability of Scrooge’s new thinking:

“Scrooge has become a different man overnight, and now treats his fellow men
with kindness, generosity, and compassion, gaining a reputation as a man who
embodies the spirit of Christmas. The story closes with the narrator confirming
the validity, completeness, and permanence of Scrooge’s transformation.”

So, as you do your annual planning, use the wisdom of Scrooge’s planning
process in your Stage 2 business, by tapping into the Ghosts of your

The Ghost of Business Past.  What was at the heart of your success
in Stage 1?  What was fun about the business?  What made you
special?  As you look to the future, you need to reconnect with that –
especially as your company has to change.

The Ghost of Business Present.  Life in Stage 2 is more complex
because you are connected to so many more people and organizations, and because
you need to deal with broader markets rather than just isolated
customers.  To come up with an effective plan, you need to take a more
holistic view.  What are your customers thinking?  Your
suppliers?  Your competitors?  Your employees?  What is
important to them?  What trends are happening in the market?  You
need to see the world from other eyes, and use that perspective to come up with
better strategy.

The Ghost of Business Future.  Stage 2 companies have reached a
point of sustainability, so now their leaders have to turn their attention to what
they are sustaining
.  What impact do you want your business to have on
the world?  What results are you looking for from your business?
What does your business stand for?  And what gaps and problems can you
identify today so that you can deal with them before they are urgent,
expensive, and entangled?

Successful Stage 2 leaders understand that it is not easy to design an effective
planning process, and so they put the time and effort into “planning the

When they do, the result is a business that is transformed overnight – with the
power to sustain that change over time.

What do you see when you go on a tour with your ghosts?

Enjoy the holidays, and best wishes for a good new year.