5 Steps to Pressure-test your Strategy Against Risks

A cartoon businessman and his strategy is protected from rain by an umbrella held by a giant hand

Many executive teams are great at setting future goals to create strategic clarity for their organizations. They look at where they want the organization to be and plan the steps that will get them there.

Yet many of these same executives are unable to achieve their strategic goals because they become blindsided by unanticipated challenges…those storms and risks for which they didn’t provide a protective strategic umbrella.

Strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations.  An important component of strategic clarity is insuring and preparing for potential future risks.  Proper strategic preparation takes a concerted effort from a cross-functional team assembled just for that purpose.

From our experience in helping companies create strategic clarity and plan for various strategic scenarios, we follow these five steps to pressure-test strategic plans and look for the big leaks that could sink your ship:

  1. Set aside a full day to focus on what could go wrong.
    Invite representatives from different aspects of the team’s current projects and strategic initiatives. You want a diverse, multi-level, cross-functional group so the future can be examined from as many different perspectives as possible. Make sure participants understand that this “focus day” is fully supported by the leadership and will provide critical and valued input. It will be a privilege, not a punishment, to participate.
  2. Brainstorm everything that could possibly jeopardize the strategy’s success.
    No judgment here. Gather in as many different ideas—realistic or not—on what could make the strategy fail from different stakeholder perspectives and within different micro and macro scenarios that are both within and outside of your control.
  3. Evaluate the risk list for impact and probability.
    Some risks are more likely to occur than others; and some would have a greater impact. Sort the list so you know how to prioritize your next steps.
  4. Design contingency plans, risk by risk.
    Focus first on those risks with the highest probability and greatest impact. How can you minimize those risks? What steps should you take now or be prepared to take if the risks arise?
  5. Share the plans with key stakeholders.
    Who should be on the lookout for the risks you have identified? Who else should be warned of the risks so they can react as needed to thwart the risks as they occur?

Use strategic scenario planning and problem solving techniques to help your leaders see into the future and protect your business with forward-thinking. The more clearly leaders peer ahead and know what obstacles could occur, the better prepared they will be to execute your business strategy as the landscape shifts.

To learn more about strategic clarity and execution, download 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy.

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