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When to change your strategy…

Posted on: January 20th, 2020 by Staffan Engstrom
On the way to Cradle Lake, Waterton Lakes, AB, Canada

This has to be my favourite picture of 2019. I had been working on a strategy project for a regional construction and services business in British Columbia, Canada, and we took the opportunity to escape into the Rockies to do some hiking. It is a stunningly beautiful country.

We were dropped off by boat with a group of hikers (most of whom were 20 years younger, and both fitter and faster) and spent a day hiking through the valley that you can see, then up through a 60m narrow tunnel just wide enough for one person – you can see it on the left hand side of the picture – then holding a rope to make our way around a sheer cliff and up to a beautiful lake. Having sat by the lake for a short while, we had to high-tail it back through the tunnel and valley to be picked up again by the boat.

One couple had taken their time on the way up, so got stuck. By the time they wanted to cross through the tunnel up to the lake they were faced with a constant stream of hikers carefully descending through the tunnel to get back in time. They couldn’t go up, but they didn’t want to miss out on the lake, so they waited and waited, but people kept coming out of the tunnel. I must say that I felt nervous whether they could do it in time! They needed to recognise that their original plan was not working and change it.

I have seen this very thing happen in business, when business leaders get stuck because they don’t recognise how the situation of the business has changed. Their original strategy must be changed to deliver a different outcome to the one planned, in order to avoid a much worse one. Often it is because they don’t want to lose face.

How well do you and your organisation recognise when the plan needs to change?