Posted by: DWilliams

Strategy and the Uncertainty Excuse

As managers, there are a few things that do right and a lot that go wrong.  How do you build a cohesive stategy that minimizes your need to make excuses?  How do you become a winner?  Knowledge Works, the exclusive Caribbean partner for Harvard Business programmes give you this weeks’s insights.

by Roger Martin

Life is and always has been uncertain. If we live in an uncertain, fast-moving, turbulent world today, why would it be any different a week, a month or a year from now? If the world is too uncertain to choose today, what is it about the future than will make things more certain? At some point, do we simply declare the world to be certain enough to make strategy choices? How will we know it is the day? What criteria will we use to decide the requisite level of certainty has been reached? Or will we simply put of choosing forever, because certainty is utterly unachievable at any stage?

When I ask business executives about their company’s strategy – or about an apparent lack thereof – they often respond that they can’t or won’t do strategy because their operating environment is changing so much. There isn’t enough certainty, they argue, to be able to do strategy effectively.

I find this to be pretty interesting logic. Essentially, the argument is that the present it is too uncertain to make any strategic decisions about the future. However, at some future time, things will be certain enough to make choices.

I really wonder what makes them think so.

The danger, of course, is that while we are using uncertainty as an excuse to put off making strategic choices, the competition may be doing something else entirely. They may be strategizing their way to first mover advantages and positions that leave few if any attractive options in the market.

What I generally observe about companies that say that it is too uncertain to do strategy, is that they complain after the fact about having been blindsided by something unexpected.
Their narrative tends to be that when it happened, it was just too late to do anything constructive about it. The failure wasn’t at all their fault, because the industry is uncertain and this kind of stuff just happens naturally.

Without making an effort to ‘do strategy, though, a company runs the risk of its numerous daily choices having no coherence to them, of being contradictory across divisions and levels, and of amounting to very little of meaning. It doesn’t have to be so. But it continues to be so because these leaders don’t believe there is a better way.

Ready to think strategically?  Ready to become a better leader and manage uncertainty?  At Knowledge Works we have learning solutions that can propel your organization to the next level.

Contact us:

  • Phone: 876-978-4671 Or 876-361-3048;
  •  Fax: 876-946-1359
  • 84 Lady Musgrave Road, Kingston 10, Jamaica