The Chemistry of Strategy tm Newsletter May 15, 2015

To change the status quo, anticipate and plan for the consequences

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Changing the status quo leads to both good and bad consequences for your stakeholders -- customers, employees, and owners. However, failing to identify the negative consequences or to develop a strategy for mitigating the pain can doom implementation.

People who perceive the likelihood of loss will fight to maintain the status quo, either proactively or unconsciously. In companies, direct resistance is less likely. Instead, people commonly respond by keeping the implementation of action steps at the bottom of their to-do list. Who can argue with someone who's "too busy" handling the crisis of the day and "doesn't have time" to worry about creating a future that they expect will hurt them? When it looks like change will actually occur, don't be surprised to encounter some aggressive resistance.

Niccolò Machiavelli explained this challenge in his 1513 classic book on human nature and how various rulers changed the status quo. “And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly.”

Strategic goals are strategic because they literally change the status quo. For each strategic goal, you must identify its possible positive and negative consequences. To sustain stakeholder support of your strategic goals, your implementation plan should identify and address the negative consequences while continuously communicating the positive ones. For each strategic goal, your plan should identify:

  • What is a potential consequence?
  • What stakeholder(s) will it affect?
  • How will it affect that stakeholder(s)?
  • When will the consequence be felt - within one year, five years, beyond five years?
  • What is the plan for neutralizing the negative impact or leveraging the positive?

Managing change is key to an organization's long-term success. Technology, markets, and culture change over time, requiring company change. To quote Machiavelli again: "The cautious man, when it is time to turn adventurous, does not know how to do it, hence he is ruined; but had he changed his conduct with the times fortune would not have changed."

Create a strategic plan with your team

"Where the willingness is great the difficulties cannot be great."
 --- Niccolò Machiavelli

A well-facilitated strategic planning process is a proven way to make sure that your senior executives are willing owners of the strategic plan. They share, understand and can communicate not only what aspects of the status quo need to be changed but why and how.  A good strategic planning process helps you create a plan that not only capitalizes on long-term opportunities and optimizes the value of your company's current reality; it creates a plan that can sustain the support of your stakeholders.

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


Create and Communicate Your Strategic Plan

John Recommends

The Business of Discovering the Future

by Joel Arthur Barker

The three keys to fully participating in the 21st century are anticipation, innovation, and excellence.

Excellence has become the necessary price of entry. Innovation coupled with excellence is a powerful combination.

Anticipation provides you with the information that allows you to be in the right place at the right time with your excellent innovative product or service.

"Out of box" thinking starts with identifying the boxes - i.e. paradigms - you're in and how they can/will change in the future.

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John loves to share his insights. Email him if you'd like to have him speak at your next meeting.

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The Chemistry of Strategy

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