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.