It’s a competitive world out there. No one knows this more than an entrepreneur — someone who’s broken away from the pack and started a business. As we’ve written before, the “fail-fast” school of thought is well-respected in the investor community. Whether failure is determined quickly or not for many years, failure is tough. Humans don’t like to fail.
In a recent article by Roger Martin in the Harvard Business Review, he explains setting yourself up to succeed is a good idea in some contexts. But it’s usually a bad idea in strategy making. He writes:
“Think about it. On one hand, you can tackle a difficult challenge and face the prospect of failing. On the other, you can strive for a manageable goal and pretty much guarantee that you’ll achieve it. I would argue that most people systematically choose the second course of action.”
He goes on to explain how this translates in the business world:
“Instead of doing the difficult work of making a coherent set of choices to position themselves to win, most companies default to writing a strategic plan that lists a bunch of initiatives with associated financial projections.”
Martin designed a questionnaire to determine if you’ve fallen into any of the three “comfort traps” of strategic planning.
- Strategic planning: They create a long list of to-dos without having a strategy to carry out.
- Cost-based thinking: They try to model revenue (which is hard to nail down) the same way they model costs (which are much easier to predict).
- Self-referential frameworks: They focus on the company’s existing strengths and its ability to quickly copy rivals’ moves instead of finding a new source of competitive advantage.
Complete his short questionnaire here and find out if you’ve fallen into a strategic planning comfort trap!