What Groundhog Day teaches us about strategic planning

The core plot of Groundhog Day revolves around Phil’s pursuit of Rita. He adopts multiple strategies to achieve his goal of seduction seemingly without success.  However, Phil has the presence of mind to learn from his prior missteps, identify the drivers for success and accordingly, readjust his tactics.  Once on the right path, he attains his goal and is released from the time trap. What does this teach us about strategic planning?

Revising your strategy during a crisis such as COVID-19 is critical.

Right now, a major challenge to achieve this is the lack of a reference point.  We commonly use a similar event in the past for predicting the future.  However, the COVID-19 crisis is unique when compared to recent pandemics in that it has caused a global lockdown.

An alternative is to adopt scenario planning.  The objective of this methodology is to construct multiple distinct futures based upon factors that will shape your operating and market conditions.  Groundhog Day, the movie, is a useful analogy for how this process works.

A summary for those who haven’t seen the movie: Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is a cynical TV weatherman who’s assigned the job of covering the annual Groundhog festivities in Punxsutawney. For inexplicable reasons, he is forced to relive the same day (Groundhog Day) over, and over again. With no end in sight, Phil struggles to find a way to escape (and ultimately make the best of) his seemingly hopeless situation.

The first lesson from Groundhog Day is how to view time. We normally assume a linear relationship when adopting a time framework. However, the movie treats time as a continuous loop; endlessly cycling from past to present to future and back again.   This is a critical mechanism for scenario planning, i.e., to create multiple futures and then linking back to the present. Using this framework, we can instigate an iterative process where you continually loop these two time periods to gain insights and craft strategies.

The next lesson from the movie: move away from immediate concerns and adopt longer term strategies.  Decisions made today may have far-reaching ramifications for years to come.  Phil’s journey beautifully illustrates this point. Initially, he addresses short term gratification – binge eating, one-night stands, daylight robbery. However, these activities only provide short-lived satisfaction. Phil then adopts a far-reaching strategy, namely, seducing Rita, his TV producer. A challenging goal given that Rita finds Phil repulsive in the present day.  This is a distinct future which Phil has imagined though his subsequent travails reflect a lack of thorough planning!

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Please do reach out if you would like to chat about learning more on navigating the current health crisis. My email is Cornell@qualia8.com and my LinkedIn profile is here