As the year winds down, preparation for the next cycle of strategic planning begins. In the midst of beginning to put together the end of the year numbers and reviewing how you fared against objectives from the last strategic plan, there's often little room to think broadly about what direction you should take next year. Once the next year's strategic planning cycle kicks in, it can be tempting to take the numbers from the past year and just add on to them--to just keep doing what you've always one but a little bit more.

But if you want a truly disruptive strategic plan for next year, there's one exercise you should try before you even start thinking about next year's plan--one final exercise before you wrap up 2016. Gather your team and ask one simple question:

"How could we put ourselves out of business?"

Don't think like yourself, think like your competitor. If you went head to head with yourself over the past year, what would you do to steal market share and maximize a competitive advantage? Lisa Bodell, author and consultant, calls this exercise "Kill The Company" as in literally, how would you kill the company if you were your competitor. "By putting yourself in the competition's shoes and analyzing how to sink the company, you expose the things that are holding the company back--often the same things that are squashing employee engagement and innovation," Bodell writes. "By questioning assumptions and challenging rules that have outlived their time, 'killing' the company makes space for value-added work and innovation."

Bodell isn't the only one to promote this counterintuitive exercise. Researchers Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie advocate for what they call "red teaming." "Red teams come in two basic forms: those that try to defeat the primary team in a simulated mission, and those that construct the strongest possible case against a proposal or a plan," they write. While red teams are normally assigned and work alongside the traditional planning or decision process, they can also be used in the interim between the end of one year's strategy and the beginning of planning for the next year. You can lead your people to red team themselves.

However you want to put yourself out of business, the result is the same: by taking on the mindset of a competitor, you expand the boundaries of your thinking and uncover weaknesses you may not have known (or admitted) you have. Before you start next year's business, try to put yourself out of business and see how much it helps you grow.

Published on: Oct 26, 2016
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