To date, we have facilitated market facing transformation strategy workshops for 31 companies and two major agencies of government regulating shipping and energy in Nigeria. Here is my observation: most strategies crumble on their underlying assumptions or the lack thereof.
On a flight from NY to Heathrow, I read two popular Socratic Dialogues - the one with Meno and the other with Euthyphro. I marveled at the dexterity with which Socrates neutralized assumptions. I recommend the Socratic Dialogues for CEOs and the corporate strategy team.
Let me illustrate how strategies stand or collapse under their underlying assumptions.
Years ago, I ran a goal setting workshop for a group of teens at Abuja Federal Capital Territory. I asked, “Where do you see yourself 10 years from today?”
They answered as we all did when we were young. I encourage ambitious dreams and goals. However, one girl’s dreams caught my attention. She said she would be the best medical doctor in the country and also a celebrity actress with hundreds of millions of followers.
“Wow! That sounds exciting and certainly doable. So, what combination of O’ Level subjects do you currently offer?” She was in her final year of high school before university.
She goes: “English, Math, History, Literature, Government, Home Economics, Christian Religious Knowledge….” And one other I don’t remember. In Nigeria, such combination of subjects would never get you into any Medical School.”
Many corporate strategies are similarly disconnected from their underlying assumptions. For example, I worked with a client whose strategic goal was to grow into a $1 billion company in 5 years. But when I asked them the market size, they didn’t know. When I walked them through their market sizing exercise, the target market was around the $350 million boundary.
How could you generate a revenue of $1 billion in a $350 million market? You cannot, unless you consider geographic expansion and/or diversification into additional segments and products as part of your strategy.
What is your strategy? What are your underlying assumptions? How logic-tight is it?