When Bad Strategy Is the Best Strategy


What if your plans don’t work?  Maybe the results are less than optimal or circumstances reveal that your baselines assumptions were faulty.  Does that mean you had a bad strategy?

Not necessarily.

Sometimes, bad strategies are the best strategies.  You can engage your executive team in scenario planning all day, but until you actually do something, you’ll never know how events will actually play out. 

Imagine you are lost in the woods.  You come to a fork in the trail, and you have no idea which path is the correct one.  Standing still and stressing about a solution that you have no way of knowing is a waste of time.  Your best bet is to try one trail and see where it leads.  If you’re right, great!  If you’re wrong, you may have lost some time, but at least you now know the correct way to go.  At the end of the day, this “wrong decision” will probably cost you less time (and less stress) than standing still and wondering what the right decision might be.

Bad strategies have value when they lead to meaningful decisions.  That’s why the value of a strategy has less to do with the strategy itself than the process by which it is executed. 

Think about a recent strategic decision you made in your organization.  What structures do you have in place to regularly reassess that decision in light of actual events?  Are you willing to abandon the decision if time reveals that you should? 

Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”  Don’t worry so much about your specific plans.  Instead, focus on your process of strategy execution.  If you can successfully build a culture in which strategy is a continuous process rather than an annual event, you will find that every decision you make has value.  When this happens, you will also find that decisions are easier to make.


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