The Failure of Traditional Strategy

There are a lot of similarities between many of the companies I’ve worked with over the last 30 years. I really like them and the people I’ve work with. Many have iconic brands that dominate their respective categories and are considered leaders in their industries. But some have epic struggles going on to regain that leadership. And many of those companies have experienced the same failure in their strategy – a lack of insight.

It’s not surprising. These companies have complete mastery over the traditional approach to developing a strategy: deep, data-driven situation analysis; boldness in setting stretch objectives; concise, articulate strategies; and detailed tactical plans with leadership accountability. In fact, they have often spent millions with some of the biggest consulting firms to go through this traditional approach.

But they have failed to get beyond the status quo and the biggest reason for that failure has been a lack of insight. Insight drives everything. It’s the key to successful new products. It’s the key to understanding customers and consumers and even the behavior of your own employees. And it’s the key to determining where to take the company. Without insight all you have is more of the same. The key to great strategy is insight.

I wrote an article some time ago entitled Businesses & Consultants Get An F. The article is about the failure rate for transformation and major strategic initiatives (it’s over 70%) but it could just as well have been about the failure of strategy. Too often companies go through the traditional strategic planning routine only to come up with something that looks a lot like the last plan except with bigger numbers for people to achieve.

Creating a compelling, effective strategy that actually makes a difference is a lot like creating a new product. And just like a new product, at the heart of strategy is insight. That’s why it should be called out as a separate step in the strategy process.

It is often said that the key to great strategy is a profound understanding of the current situation. That’s important, of course. But let’s add something else. The key to great strategy at the companies I’ve worked with or anywhere else is insight. They need to build it into their approach to strategy. I’ve done that at ThinkWay.

(Our approach to strategy at ThinkWay® has Insights built into it. You can get a short PDF briefing on the Strategic Insights Process here. Registration required.)