Take Down That Construction Sign

Business strategy is not a project anymore, it’s a continuous process.

If you’re still building your strategy as we used to build software in the ’90s, through the waterfall technique, you’ve got a problem.

Does the concept of the annual strategic planning retreat still make sense? Maybe not. This year, if that event happened in January or February, right before the COVID crisis in North America, chances are it was a waste of your time.

The strategy should be about continuously observing and making sense of your environment so you can make better decisions, quickly.

Jeff Barlow is my typography teacher at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. What he says about a design project is true for strategy too: “It’s never done. But it’s always due.”

Your strategy is just like your website. It’s under construction all the time. Once you published it, it’s already time to change it.

Today, I was wondering if “Under construction” web pages still existed.

It’s been probably two decades since I’ve seen one. I surfed the web for the first time in January 1994, and at the time, they were pretty common. Webmasters would use a big yellow construction sign to tell the World Wide Web that they were still busy perfecting their message.

That practice is gone. “Under construction” pages are bad. They’re bad for engagement, bad for SEO, bad for your reputation. They deliver nothing but disappointment and frustration. They indicate that you’re not agile enough.

At this point, we all had to rethink how we steer our businesses. But if you’ve not done so already, take down that construction sign on your strategy and change your process.

Here are just a few tips to get this idea going:

  • Start the process with the high-level story first.
  • Make it ongoing, fast and most important, inclusive.
  • Thrive for testing and feedback more than for perfection.
  • Get a prototype quickly in the hands of people.
  • Start small and update the story over time.
  • Schedule as many occasions as you can to test your story.
  • Debug as you go.


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