Strategic planning revolution

Aug 15, 2021

Think of strategy as a revolutionary process requiring continual iteration and agility.

There is a rarity in which the broad spectrum of infrastructure that underpins industrial civilization undergoes transformational change. Some may call it a revolution. It would appear that we are standing upon the precipice of such a revolution, however. Uncertainty, uncomfortable decisions, and challenges as well as excitement, innovation, passion, and possibility are pervasive. It is being called the next industrial revolution or Industry 4.0. Never before in the history of the world has the power of the individual been so great, and as Ferdinand Foch once said, “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”

Through our vision to Elevate the Industry, Zweig Group endeavors to be the spark that lights individuals’ souls ablaze, driving purpose and performance for those we serve. To me, this starts within the strategic planning efforts that will act as a beacon for individuals in firms around the world, each striving to leave behind an incredible legacy. The beauty is in the vast diversity and modalities in which this will take form. Now, before we can begin talking about a strategy revolution, we must first recognize a few concepts that will allow you to be a leader today and in the future. These concepts include rethinking your business model, building your strategy within and around platforms, designing everything around clients, truly embracing technological shifts, innovating rapidly and openly, learning more from the data you have, focusing on your purpose instead of services or products, being trustworthy, and putting humanity at the forefront.

With those suppositions, what is possible if we view strategy as a revolutionary process requiring continual iteration and agility? Let us examine together a few ideas that we can carry forward. These will allow us to better articulate a path forward that connects with the human souls we so desperately want to set ablaze with passion within each of our spheres of influence.

  • Strategic planning is not generally strategic. Do you truly test the boundaries of your preconceptions with strategy making. Unless your firm is truly exceptional, we must admit that until now, most of us have been more operational in our efforts.
  • Strategy must be subversive. As Galileo challenged the centrality of Earth, we must challenge the status quo. Are we in a Newtonian, relative, or quantum environment? “Newtonian planning” would not make sense if we are actually operating in a quantum environment. It follows then that we must confront conventions. It may not be subversion, but enlightenment.
  • The constraints at the top. If we assume for a moment that the people at the top of our organizations have it good and are relatively closer to retirement, then the incentives are aligned for them to maintain the status quo. They are also generally the ones tasked with crafting strategy. Additionally, in a rapidly changing “revolution,” things are changing so fast that experience is of little relevance.
  • Engagement, not change, is the problem. “Change is hard” and “No one likes change” are constant refrains that echo throughout the industry. We need to engage, support, provide transparency, and ultimately responsibility to a widespread stakeholder group within strategy design and execution. How would ownership and passion change within our organization if people had some control over their destiny?
  • Strategy design must be inclusive. This one is relatively well recognized. We must engage the entire firm. It isn’t simply about being heard, though. It is about the opportunity to influence action.
  • Anyone can be a strategist. This is a call for those that desire change. It can come from anywhere in your organization. It simply requires that you care more for your community than for your place in the hierarchy.
  • Diversity of perspective is powerful. Have you ever learned a new word or concept and then see it everywhere? It is as if your entire perspective has changed and your eyes have been opened. It is powerful when you can bring a diversity of perspectives to the table while designing your strategy.
  • It is not top down or bottom up, it’s both. How do you build and execute your strategy? There must be a cross section in both the design and implementation of your plan.
  • Strategy formation should be viewed as a virtuous cycle rather than a project. By this we mean there is no definitive end. It is an infinite and continual process.

I may sound like a dreamer or perhaps unrealistic, but we get results for clients all around the world. I’m asking simply for the opportunity to help set your soul on fire, to design something grand that will truly make a difference in your life and in the world. What is missing in so many is that passion from which your pursuits originated. Let us find that purpose together and set a new standard for what a competitive advantage truly is.

Phil Keil is director of strategy services at Zweig Group. Contact him at

Zweig Group's strategic planning team delivers a real plan, with real goals, real action items, and with accountability built in to ensure your firm’s success. Our team of advisors work directly with company leadership, guiding your firm toward developing and achieving its critical business objectives.

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.