The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Balance the Blue Sky Mentality with Front-Line Intelligence

Brent Grover recommends getting regular feedback from the front lines and from customers and suppliers.

Planning is “the art of the possible,” says industry consultant Brent Grover in The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors. While dreaming about lofty goals can be fun, it's a waste of distributors' time if those goals aren't achievable.

Part of determining what's achievable is understanding how well a company embraces change and how willing employees are to tackle new projects. What's equally important, though, is measuring the distance between the goal and a company's current situation, which means identifying areas where it may already be falling behind.

Grover says it's hard for many distributors to admit where their companies fall short, but it’s an integral part of realistic planning. "No matter how great the plan seems to be, the plan is worthless if it cannot be implemented. Gaps, if any, need to be filled before moving forward," Grover says.

MDM Editor Lindsay Konzak, writing about a variation on the SWOT analysis, says that businesses tend to be biased toward their strengths when conducting an internal assessment. And in The Imprecision of Intuition, MDM Associate Editor Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier writes that managers' intuition about which opportunities and customers to pursue are often at odds with reality, since they are often based on outdated or second-hand information.

To supplement the experience and intuition of company leaders during strategic planning, Grover recommends incorporating information straight from the front lines into a company's internal assessment. Employee feedback, supported by a familiar understanding of day-to-day operations and a direct involvement with suppliers and customers, provides a broader and more valuable perspective.

Employee surveys are an ideal easy to way collect this information. For Grover’s recommendations on what survey software to use, best practices for survey creation and how to use the results, visit for a survey creation checklist.

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