May 23, 2008 By, Derek van Bever and Matt Olson
I thought this as very interesting. We often talked about the importance of clearly defining the assumptions in implementing new initiatives (the Discovery Driven Planning process from McGrath and MacMillan) but this takes it a step further in clearly articulating the underlying assumptions in your basic strategy.
"How do you challenge something that’s never been articulated?” The question arose at a gathering of strategists we convened in which we polled the group to determine how many of their firms had written down the assumptions underneath their strategy. Literally, do the assumptions exist on a piece of paper or in an electronic file—anywhere?
It’s interesting that most strategic plans are very accurate at capturing goals, as well as uncertainties—things we don’t know that we expect will be significant—but are not at all helpful at clarifying what we believe. At articulating it in a way that enables constructive challenge and conversation.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that if your core assumptions are “in the ether,” you run the very large risk of a nasty surprise when one or more of those assumptions become dangerously out of date. We offer a number of practices for articulating assumptions, but our favorite for this task is probably the Core Belief Identification Squad, an internal hunting expedition to discover the deepest beliefs of the firm about its products, customers and markets through the use of a series of provocative questions. (“What 10 things would you never hear customers say about our business?” is one of them, for instance.)
So, how would you respond to our snap poll? What ways have you discovered to articulate your strategic assumptions in a way that they can be exposed to constructive challenge?"