Explicit Assumptions

brand-as-business bit:  Peter Sheahan, CEO of Change Labs, gave a provocative keynote address at the recent Consumer Electronics Association’s Industry Forum.  One of his points was that companies miss out on critical opportunities or they’re blindsided by disruption because they don’t explicitly identify the assumptions they make in their planning process.  Strategic decision-making relies on making assumptions, so we must shine a light on those assumptions to ensure they are intentionally accepted or challenged.

IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty recently talked about how her organization has replaced strategic plans with strategic beliefs.  She explains:

“…Clients would often say to me, ‘What’s your strategy?’  And I would say, ‘Ask me what I believe first, that’s a way more enduring answer.’ And in the world you and I live in now where everything’s changing so quickly, you can’t predict everything…”

This suggests the company recognizes it’s making bets on the future – and it’s using underlying assumptions — and making them explicit — to inform those bets.

Peter recommends companies clearly outline each of the following in its strategic process:  vision –> context –> assumptions –>strategy –> disciplines –>process.

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