WHEN you create a strategic plan, you have to take into account the forces external to your business to enable you to plot the correct course.

For some, ignorance is bliss and they prefer to operate using the maxims of the past and expect the old ways and things that made them successful historically to hold true in the current environment. Operating in this way is like climbing a mountain in the T-shirt and shorts that you started in -- you also got out of the car without reading the weather report (because yesterday was perfect weather).

Those that are truly successful work hard to understand the external factors which impact their business now and into the future. With this understanding they then shape their response and actions to ensure they operate effectively.

Of late, strategic planning has become more challenging in light of world and local events. We watch with almost with bated breath as automation and robotic technologies increase in availability and competence. This situation is amplified by major and well known brands and companies being usurped by nimble and fast competition. These events seem so far away from Wanganui but their economic ripples reach all of us eventually.

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Last week I was assisting a board in the review of their vision and mission. Fortunately for them, they occupy a niche and have aspects of their offering which is insulated from a number of external forces.

However, what became clear is that there are both opportunities and threats which are what I call "secondary" strategic drivers which are likely to occur as a result of factors mentioned above.

While there was a bit of push back when it came to discussion about what might happen with regard to technology disruption, there was pretty much all-round acceptance that change is the new constant.

The more we examined the operating and strategic environment of the organisation and we found compelling reasons to review and amend their strategic vision -- one that had been in place and accepted for some time.

So you need to be watching developments regularly and use that understanding of potential impacts to make the right decisions. It also helps to surround yourself with people who know what is going on and gain access to sources of information that are complete, accurate and valid.

These are uncertain times, but one thing is certain in the business world and that is change -- it will happen. Strategic planning is both our specialty and our passion and we help our clients be prepared and proactive in managing change and achieving success. The more prepared you are and the better your understanding of your business environment, the more likely it is you will successfully negotiate whatever the environment throws at you.

� Balance Consulting is Wanganui's only specialist strategic consulting practice. For help with your organisation's strategic direction and for advice, contact Russell on 021-244-2421.