Remember NASA’s serious Mars Orbiter crash? This phenomenon has been studied by many professionals and all have concluded that the tragedy was caused by erroneous assumptions. There were assumptions about the measurement systems being used. There were assumptions about the communications process. There were also assumptions about who was supporting the operation throughout the organization. Essentially, there was not much effort put forth to verify these assumptions and they experienced a serious catastrophe.
Assumptions are necessary parts of strategic thinking. We must make assumptions or we won’t have a plan at all. It helps to know what our assumptions are and how they influence the building of the strategy. Greg Gathens of leadingstrategicinitiaties.com defines assumptions as “…these factors that are considered true, real, or certain for the purpose of creating a shared understanding of the plan.” In other words, everyone involved in the development and implementation of the strategy can make the general assumption that the strategy is achievable as designed.
A major problem occurs when mangers or leaders fail to identify the prevailing assumptions that influence the strategy. You can check your strategy by asking:
1. What communications must exist for the strategy to work?
2. What valid customer requirements exist?
3. What are the available resources?
4. What innovations are required?
Of course there are many other assumption related questions you might ask, but these will give you a start.
A good beginning would be to ask the two following questions as you are building your strategy.
1.What are your 3 or 4 biggest challenges over the coming 2 or 3 three years? What are the assumptions surrounding your answers?
2. What are the 4 or 5 things customers like best about your business? Are your answers based on assumptions or facts?
Learning to check assumptions as you grow your business will be an excellent skill in our ever changing environment and you may prevent a serious crash of your important strategy.
See “Strategic Planning” the L Group.
When building your strategies, you must use carefulness and exactness if we want successful implementation. We will explore explore some critical things to avoid as we build a workable strategy. This is excellent information if you are just beginning to build a strategy, but if your strategy is already designed and in process, you can adjust it for better success if you recognize any problems. Strategies are essential guides but they will inevitably need adjusting because of the many factors that may influence them. Your Mission, Vision and Core Values will be the foundational reference for any changes. In this post, we will explore three things to avoid when designing strategy.
First, it’s easy to think tactically rather than strategically. A deeper discussion of the difference between tactics and strategy is described in an excellent article by Jeremiah Awayang “The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics”. In designing a strategy you are thinking conceptually. You are imagining the overall goals and objectives required to reach your vision. You are seeing the future. When designing tactics, you are determining what resources and overall methods required to get to your vision. Some examples of strategy would be: a strategy to acquire 100 new accounts by May 30, 2016; or to train all employees on innovation techniques by 2017. Some examples of tactics would be: a tactic to develop a new marketing plan that targets ideal customers; or a tactic to hire a training resource to design and implement innovation training. In simple words, strategy tells you what should be done and tactics tell you how to do it.
Second, using erroneous assumptions or pushing pet projects not considering the relevance to your Mission and Vision. In cases like this you may factor in some operation you performed well in the past even though it doesn’t promote growth toward your vision. Check your assumptions about the business, environment, technology and other factors.
Third, ignoring the trends in your industry. You may have plans to be a trendsetter, but you can add to your chances of being a success if you are aware of what is going on in your industry. You can align some of your operations with current requirements.
In future posts, we will explore other things to avoid when building your strategy. Stay tuned.
“With a clever strategy, each action is self-reinforcing. Each action creates more options that are mutually beneficial. Each victory is not just for today but for tomorrow.”
― Max McKeown, The Strategy Book