The second ability we’re looking at this week, is the ability to stay flexible and design your plans so that they can deal with change.

Staying flexible requires that you aren’t tied up to your plans. As soon as you have decided on a strategy (that you might have coined) it is no longer yours or theirs, it is The Company’s Strategy. This means you’ll defend it if people are attacking it, whether you agree with the plan or not. It also means that if it needs to change because of good reasons, you won’t stick to it “because it was such a good plan”. If you want anything to do with strategy, you need to check out your ego at the door.

The German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke famously said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. We not only need to be prepare to abandon or alter our strategy, we need to be proactive about it: you know plans will change, so you better take this into account when you are setting up strategy.

A couple of practical things around this:

  • When putting a strategy to the test, try a lot of “what if” questions, to formulate a rough idea how to deal with these situations. This does not need to be set in stone, but this is a thinking exercise. Your not going to capture all the possible options beforehand anyway.
  • This is obvious, but there should be no complaining about change to the strategy. The first step is to acknowledge that things will go different than you’ve expected. As people look to you for a solid strategy, they will look again when things change, to see how you react. Complaining it not going to do any good.
  • Build in enough time to continuously check if there are signs your strategy needs to be changed. This could be something you review together a couple of times per year, or something you do yourself separately.

Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the ability to seek advice from others.