Think Again: Why Your Strategy Needs a Reality Check

Think Again: Why Your Strategy Needs a Reality Check

Think Again: Why Your Strategy Needs a Reality Check

A robust strategic plan is often touted as the blueprint for navigating a company towards long-term success. As business leaders, we diligently craft these plans, hoping to cover all bases. Yet, despite our best efforts, parts of these plans frequently falter. In my own experience, I’ve witnessed firsthand—and sometimes participated in—various strategic misfires, regardless of my connection to the company.

Here are a few memorable missteps:

  • We replaced critical components of our technology stack after realizing our “best picks” were far from the best on the market.
  • Our sales strategies often missed the mark, leading to numerous restarts.
  • We developed a technically superior product, only to discover there was little market interest or need for it—a classic case of innovation without validation.
  • We hastily changed directions based on feedback from a key customer, mistaking it for a mandate to overhaul our product line.

These issues are just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even touched on potential disasters like severe supply chain disruptions, global pandemics, crippling lawsuits, or those infamous spreadsheet errors that unveil a vast capital deficit—oversights that escape notice even during the most thorough due diligence.

While we can absorb wisdom from business books during our treadmill routines, living out a strategic plan daily is far more complex than textbook examples might suggest. This raises an important question: Why do so many strategic plans fail? More crucially, how can we reduce these failures or at least minimize their impact?

Although there are countless answers to these questions, which I plan to explore in future writings, my experiences have led me to believe that many strategy failures stem primarily from flawed assumptions.

In the fast-paced environment of business leadership, decisions often need to be swift, informed by the best data available at the time. However, these decisions typically rest on assumptions—educated guesses to fill our knowledge gaps. These assumptions, while necessary, can mislead us if not carefully managed.

The risk intensifies when we rely on outdated or untested assumptions, particularly when more accurate and relevant data is available but ignored—perhaps because it conflicts with our planned direction or we feel pressured to make quick decisions without reevaluation. Moreover, when new information emerges that could influence our strategic direction, we might overlook it if we’re too entrenched in our original assumptions.

To maintain the relevance and effectiveness of our strategic plans, it’s crucial that these assumptions are not set in stone. They need to be regularly revisited and challenged throughout the lifespan of the plan. This dynamic approach to managing assumptions helps to convert them into verified facts or prompts timely strategic adjustments based on new insights.

By continuously reevaluating the assumptions underlying our strategic plans, we protect against the risks of basing crucial decisions on outdated or incorrect information. This practice not only fosters more precise decision-making but also ensures our strategies remain aligned with the ever-evolving business landscape.