Bruce D. Wyman Company

Since 1988

Providing Strategic Business Planning Services to small businesses and associations, both for- and non-profit, to help them leverage their use of their scarce resources: time, funds, and effort.

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." *

How do I go about better understanding my business Environment?

In order to examine your current and future business environment, we need to start by segmenting your approach. Just as most people don’t buy a whole steer and then attempt to eat their way through it, you generally can better understand and document your business environment if you cut it up into pieces and address each of those segments in turn. I start by developing six general categories that encompass the entire environment. These categories should be tailored to the particular business or association under consideration. The categories are very flexible and are NOT mutually exclusive—that is, they have overlaps.

I suggest that you start with consideration of the following categories:
a) technological,
b) political,
c) geographical,
d) economic,
e) sociological, and
f) other.
Using six categories is not a hard and fast rule; you can use fewer if you like, but using more begins to become too burdensome and adds little marginal value to the process. I always include the “other” category as an “all other items” catch-all category.

What is important is that we are simply using this framework as a way of segmenting our thinking. This allows us to focus our thinking and more easily draw out ideas. Because a specific idea can potentially emerge from more than one of the categories, it is more important to draw out the ideas, than it is to be concerned with the particular category in which the idea was generated.

Working with the environmental framework, we work with each category, in turn, to identify Assumptions. Recall that Assumptions are those anticipated characteristics of the future environment over which your business or association will have little or no control. Although there are numerous data and pieces of information that you can predict about the future, what are of interest in this case are those characteristics that will have a bearing, either positive or negative, on your conduct of business in the future environment.

You might consider such factors as the spread of computer and electronic equipments, the effects of telecommuting or distance learning upon transportation systems, spending levels on our infrastructure systems, taxation and regulatory levels, income and age patterns, the quest for quality in products and processes, patterns in educational pursuits and adult continuing education, patterns in consumers’ use of non-local service providers, demographic and ethnicity trends, employment and retirement trends, etc.

An important point is to let your mind “ramble” and generate thoughts, and then to capture those thoughts on paper, before you mentally try to evaluate them or develop them into complete sentences. Also, it is unimportant whether you choose to try to exhaust your ideas within one category, before moving on to the next category, or whether you choose to jump around by developing Assumption ideas and then recording them under whatever category seems most appropriate.

This process of capturing your ideas about the future business environment, forms the basis for all your follow-on Strategic Business Planning activities. Extracting and documenting your Assumptions is a crucial—yet often overlooked—step, because your entire thinking about your business and its relationship to your market and clients is based upon your Assumptions.

As your business or association progresses, you should periodically review your Strategic Business Plan, revalidating its contents, including the Assumptions. At any time that you find that one of your Assumptions has changed or become incongruent with what you see happening in the business environment, it is an important flag to you that you have to re-examine your Strategic Business Plan to see what elements of your plan, built upon that Assumption that is no longer valid, must be updated. This is part of what is referred to as "double-loop learning." That is, not only assessing whether, and by how much, you are deviating from your Strategic Business Plan (the "single-loop" part), but also assessing (the "double-loop" part) whether your business environment is deviating from what you assumed (documented in your Assumptions) it would be.

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