One of the biggest corporate problems today is that top management is so busy looking after its day-to-day business that they miss all sorts of wonderful opportunities by not knowing what is going on around them.
It is something that frustrates chief executives and non-executive board members. How often do we hear non-ex directors asking their executive counterparts why they didn't do this, that and the next thing? Only to be told that the company heard about it too late.
A simple solution I have found is to establish a Strategic Issues Forum. What this entails is once a month tagging an extra hour or two onto a regular board, EXCO or senior management meeting.
During this time absolutely no discussion takes place with regard to the company. Only on the environment within which it is working. It's a forward-looking exercise analysing the weeks and months ahead in terms of political, economic and social development, looking at global market trends and so forth and then looking at how the company concerned can best take advantage of any opportunities that might develop.
In many cases this provides companies with excellent PR opportunities by being ready and able to comment on issues as they happen - to be prepared and not waste opportunities by only starting the process when things actually happen.
In addition it gives companies a huge head start in terms of product and service offerings, once again being prepared in advance and then merely to push the green button instead of wasting weeks and months developing products, services, campaigns and so forth.
But, the secret to an effective Strategic Issues Forum is to have it facilitated by an outside agency. I have found that in cases where I am able to ensure that meetings take place regularly and that deliberations stay focussed, these forums work extremely well and present a wonderful return on what is actually a tiny investment in terms of time and money.
But, where companies decide to go it alone and conduct their strategic issues forums internally, inevitably the meetings get shunted on to the back burner - first they get postponed and then cancelled and then forgotten.
Or worse, they turn into internal production meetings.
Frankly, looking ahead is not an optional extra in terms of corporate best practice. It is absolutely vital in this competitive and global day and age.
Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
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