Smart business is knowing the four ways to avoid strategic drift – as well as the three reasons it typically occurs.
Our previous blog post explored what exactly strategic drift is and the four phases of it, now let’s learn how your organisation can work to avoid it.
Reasons for strategic drift
Understanding why strategic drift happens can go a long way to helping organisation avoid it. Although not foolproof, it’s always better to know the pitfalls and risks, thereby increasing the likelihood of avoiding them.
This is a double-edged sword that organisations can fall on; it’s both management complacency and inflexible perspectives for change that affect strategic drift.
This usually occurs when existing management has been with the company for a while and found prior success. This can lead to management holding preconceived notions as to how the market should work and what consumers want, something that typically occurs when they’ve had previous success in their strategy and direction. This can lead to inflexibility, which in turn can lead to change being stalled.
Group culture, or group think, occurs when groups strive to be in consensus with one another and is most common when group members are very similar, when the group is led by a powerful and charismatic leader, and when the group is under extreme stress.
Because stress runs in tandem with poor organisational results, it’s important to solve group dynamic issues sooner than later because groupthink will gradually become more difficult to combat.
Failing to understand customer demand
When organisations spend too much time focusing on producing goods and services, and not enough time understanding what customers need or want, strategic drift can occur.
This lack of foresight is all too common and termed ‘marketing myopia’. Nokia for example, once a market leader in the mobile phone industry, lost significant market share to Apple and Android after assuming mobile phones are only useful for messaging and snake games.
If Nokia would have focused on their customer, they would have seen their demand for GPS, flashlights, calculators, etc, and may still be considered a market leader today.
So now we know why strategic drift happens – how do you avoid it?
Develop an early warning system
By establishing regular reviews of your external environment, you can identify and react to strategic drift before you’re in Phase 4: Transformation or Die.
Like any problem, the longer it takes to recognise and resolve the problem the nastier and harder to solve the problem becomes.
By conducting regular external analyses, you’ll have the ability to react to any of the trends in the external environment by creating a change management strategy to address the change.
Foster a fearless culture to prevent unhealthy group think
As identified earlier, group think can be the death of progress. Three steps to developing a fearless culture include:
- Avoid managers giving their opinions when assigning tasks. Give people time to come up with their own ideas first
- Assign one individual of the group the be the “devil’s advocate”
- Consult outside parties for impartial opinions
Create a solid vision statement
We’ve identified that failing to understand market demand leads to ‘marketing myopia’, creating tunnel vision in what you provide to your consumers.
To mitigate it, it’s helpful to have a solid vision statement, to ensure your organisation is focused on achieving your vision as opposed to the success of a single product offering or business model.
Encourage organisational flexibility
Making changes, whether transformational or incremental, requires accountability and alignment. You’ll need to develop or acquire the processes and systems needed to communicate this change to your organisation and then monitor this change.
The more flexibility, the more buy-in from employees. Your team is more likely to feel engaged, listened to and therefore, want to be part of the organisation, its goals and its development. This is a factor that is often underrated, but one of such key importance that it cannot be understated.
Now that you know what strategic drift is, and how to avoid it, you and your organisation can start to prepare for it and keep yourself ahead of the curve.
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