The Chemistry of Strategy tm Newsletter November 30, 2014

How to change the status quo

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A strategic goal is strategic because it literally changes the status quo. There are four major challenges to changing the status quo that every strategic goal's implementation plan must address.

You must apply an unbalanced force. Most people assume that the effort required to produce a result is a constant. Not so. For example, a rule of thumb in military strategy is that it takes three times the force to overwhelm a position (i.e., the status quo) than to defend it. The biggest changes require an overwhelming force.

Newton's first law, the law of inertia, says there is a natural tendency of objects to keep on doing what they're doing. All objects resist changes in their state of motion. In the absence of an unbalanced force, an object in motion will maintain this state of motion.

Think of the status quo as an object -- in motion or at rest. Changing the status quo requires applying an unbalanced force.

You must have 100% support of the senior team. Changing the status quo usually impacts all aspects of an organization. Sales needs to prioritize selling largely unproven products/services and/or skeptical new customers or markets. Operations must learn how to deliver the new products/services. The effort will fail if the entire team isn't on board with making the required changes in their areas.

You must handle the losers. Every status quo change produces winners and losers. The losers will resist change. The greater the perceived loss, the more intense their resistance to change. You must either figure out how they can have a "win" or push them out of the way. People fear loss more than they fear change.

You must accept the likelihood of tactical failures. Sins of commission (taking action and assuming responsibility) tend to be punished much more severely than sins of omission (doing nothing.) Resist punishing people when their actions don't work. Tactical failure (a batter swinging at the ball and missing) is expected, while strategic failure (losing the game/season) is unacceptable.

Create a strategic plan with your team

"The manager accepts the status quo;
the leader challenges it. - Warren BennisIt

A well-facilitated strategic planning process is a proven way to create a plan that is embraced and enthusiastically implemented by your team. It sets the foundation to justify applying an unbalanced force.

How long have you been saying that you will develop your strategic plan, but you haven't yet done so? Why? Perhaps it remains on your to-do list because it feels like a huge, laborious process and you haven't the time to spare to do it. Peak-performing companies have a clearly defined strategic plan…and it doesn't have to take long to create an effective one.

John W. Myrna

is co-founder of
Myrna Associates Inc


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