Lafley & Martin: Shortening the Odds

This is the 13th in my series on Lafley & Martin’s business strategy book “Playing to Win”.  We have gone through the strategy model, discussed how to gather and analyze data in a “logic flow” path, so what else is there to do? There is one more thing.

Traditionally, companies implement strategy by trying to come up with a “right answer” to the strategic problem and then achieve “buy in” among staff. It is a drawn out and expensive process.  And because buy in is the goal, conformity is encouraged rather than creativity.

There is a better way and it starts with asking the right question.  Instead of asking “what is true” (the right answer” one might ask “what would have to be true”.  there are seven steps to getting this done

  1. Frame the choice – an issue cannot be resolved until it is framned as a choice.  So if you have declining sales, what choices do you have to try to reverse that? You should have at least two mutually exclusive options to pick from.
  2. Generate strategic possibilities – A possibility is expressed as a narrative or scenario. Be inclusive rather than exclusive. You will vett the possibilities later.
  3. Specify Conditions – Go through the list of possibilities and ask what must be true for that option to be terrific. Note that we do not know IF the critical fact is true, we just want to know what fact to be looking for.  The fact or facts should relate to each part of the logic flow (fact s about industry segmentation and structure, consumer channels and value, your capabilities and costs  and your competitors reactions
  4. Identify barriers to choice – which of the conditions identified above is least likely to be true?Here skeptics are useful.
  5. Design valid tests – Once key conditions  are identified, they must be tested. The tests should set standards that bring together the staff in agreement about how much certainty is needed
  6. Conduct Tests – Test what you are most dubious about first. Then proceed to the next most dubious and so on.
  7. choose – This should be somewhat anti-climatic.

Quite a few steps, but I think a valid schematic for bringing groups together around choices.


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