Suited Man's Hands Around A Crystal Ball

Good strategy? Prove it

The benefit of hindsight

Written by Dr Shaun Ridley FAIM
3 minute read
Suited Man's Hands Around A Crystal Ball

The overconfidence shown by individuals and organisations about the quality of their strategic plan is a constant surprise. 

This strategy document, which usually has a multi-year time horizon, is used to justify a range of decisions and inflate the importance of the executive team or consultant responsible for creating it.

But the brutal reality is that good strategy is only good strategy with the benefit of hindsight. 

It is not until well after the timeline of the current plan has expired, that observers can look back and objectively make an assessment of its merits.

You can look back into the recent history and identify a key decision and say “that decision taken four years ago has proved to be pivotal” and then evaluate whether the outcome was positive or negative.

Unfortunately, we don’t have foresight. 

We can’t say our strategy is the right one – at least, not yet. The predictions for how the marketplace will develop and how your organisation will respond over the next few years are simply guesses; hopefully educated, informed and well-researched guesses, but guesses nevertheless. 

To pump-up the rhetoric and exaggerate the strength of your strategic plan does little for you or your strategy. In a rapidly changing world, the chances of your strategy being 100% accurate are small and it is likely to change dozens of times over its life.

One more small step in the next 24 hours

Adopt a more conservative position when describing your strategy. Emphasise the preparatory work that has gone into the document. What data has been sourced to support the initiatives? What research has been relied upon and what assumptions have been made? 

Discuss the approach that will be taken to implement each of the agreed actions and what contingencies are in place if there are shifts in the marketplace or if things don’t go to plan. 

The rigour of this work is what will give your stakeholders confidence in the direction that has been chosen, not a stirring speech on the quality of the document.

Similarly, challenge others who over-inflate their strategic plan. When they tell you they have a great strategy, simply say “Prove it”. They won’t be able to without the benefit of hindsight.

Ask yourself 

What impact could this action have on your leadership success?

How likely is it you could implement this action successfully?

Where to from here?

Senior Executive Forum 2022 - Leadership & Executing New Strategy 
With Harvard Business School Professors David Collis & Ethan Bernstein

AIM WA invites our region's best and brightest leaders and high-potential individuals to participate in this exclusive Forum. 

This year's Senior Executive Forum (SEF) represents an inflection point in our thinking about strategy. It moves us away from strategy formulation and shifts the focus to executing strategy and to creating value with innovative business models and agility so we are adaptive to the constantly changing external environment.

Using the highly effective Harvard Business School case study method, Harvard's very own prestigious faculty will challenge us to develop our judgement and critical thinking. Learning not only from expertly delivered case studies, but co-creating knowledge with peers, we'll bring our collective experiences together on the complex topics under discussion.

You can't afford to miss this unique opportunity to develop your meta-skills alongside some of the world's most revered, big-picture thinkers.

The Senior Executive Forum takes place Wednesday 27 to Saturday 30 July 2022 and is fully residential at the DoubleTree by Hilton Perth on the beautiful Swan River waterfront. 

Numbers are limited. Reserve your place today or call 08 9383 8000 and ask to speak with Dr Shaun Ridley or Alex Quinn for more information.