The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors

by Brent R. Grover

The Strategic (Battle) Plan

The idea of strategic planning for corporations evolved in the 1960s from military planning concepts. In The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors, Brent Grover hints at the similarities between business and war.

Harvard professor Michael Porter was the catalyst for a corporate interest in strategy according to Brent, releasing Competitive Strategy in 1965. Brent postulates in The Little Black Book that the generation of business leaders who fought in World War II were receptive to Porter’s aggressively competitive message, leading to a wave of interest in corporate strategy and the rise of big-time consulting firms Boston Consulting and McKinsey as the strategic planning go-to experts.

The connection between military and business strategy is easy to see, especially considering the mutual importance of concepts like intelligence, speed and focus to both realms. In his recent book, Brent sometimes borrows from military verbiage to describe strategic planning concepts, such as how to evaluate what share of competitors’ business a company might be able to “capture.”

Brent recommends collecting intelligence “from the field” about competitors’ targeted business and contracts already gained and lost. “Naturally competitors are planning to attack and include business they want in their plans for the coming year,” he says. “Who will win more of those battles?”

Brent also compares strategic planning to battle planning when describing the importance of having a plan regardless of the potential need to adjust it later. Brent says all plans become obsolete, sometimes even before they are completed: “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” he says, “and no business plan is intact after engagement with the marketplace.”

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