Trajectory And Asking Good Questions

Do you consider the trajectory and/or the potential transitions that may be relevant when constructing your business plans and goals for upcoming timeframe?  Whether you are a new startup, an early growth stage company, or an established company seeking to evolve in a slump, you have an opportunity to consider alternative ways to project and plan for the future for your business.  Challenging your plan (and your team) to consider both a trajectory state and a transition state can yield benefits.

Trajectory planning usually looks at your historical progress or that of a close competitor and applies a series of market attributes that either identify that the opportunity is picking up speed and exponentially growing, or that it has reached a leveling off plateau, or that it is cyclical in nature and has increasingly higher peaks and/or valleys.

But today’s environment is complex.  There are many stories we have all heard, however, about the role of significant market transitions and the spectacular successes and screechingly abrupt failures that these transitions have produced.  You know the big stories  – Kodak and digital photography (Forbes versionHBR version, and countless others have written on this), Nokia and the mobile technology market  (Wired version,  WSJ version , etc.) and there are many more.

Should you be considering what a potential transition might mean to your business? Whether you are a giant company or the local bakery, the answer is unequivicolly YES!

So start with asking yourself and your team the important questions and maintaining an open mind to view the opportunity from two sides of the table so to speak.  Of the many useful questions that I have found instrumental when challenging a leadership team during their planning process, these three questions stand out.  Although on so many fronts, these seem like the most fundamental of fundamental questions, it is surprising how often leadership teams cannot produce initially a clear answer.  Other times, and the exploration of this is invaluable, there are multiple answers from different team members and very little alignment on those answers!

My top five questions to kick off your planning process:
1) Who, and I mean exactly who are the humans that buy your ____________ <fill in the blank>?
2) What do they (those humans) care about what is a problem and pain point for them – very specifically for them as individuals?  What do they care about?  What problems do they need to solve?

3) What is a clear articulation of your unique and differentiated value proposition that is relevant to those humans in #1 and #2 above?

4) Who are your competitors today? Who will your competitors possibly be next quarter? Next year?

5) And this is a BIGGIE, often ignored … What are the barriers to entry for others to pursue your best potential customers (the ones you came up with in #1 and #2 above) with a similar but better value proposition (as you noted in #3)?

So, go ahead, make sure during your planning cycle you ask yourself and your team these questions.  Keep an open minded in considering and exploring the answers.  Apply both trajectory AND transition perspectives to the exercise.

I can confidently say that I have seen 100% of my clients gain valuable insight that informs their plans for a more successful upcoming term when they take the time to do this work.

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