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Unintended Consequences of Well-intentioned Actions

M. Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant

Strategic Planning Expert

Strategic Planning Expert

In Strategic Planning, teams make decisions based on data and on the best knowledge of the planning team and organization.  Unfortunately, well-intentioned plans can result in incurring unintended results.  While analyzing what could possibly go wrong with a strategy or high level tactic, it simply is not possible to anticipate everything which could occur in carrying out the plan.  There are many factors outside of the organization’s control which can have unfortunate impacts on the efficacy and effectiveness of any action.  Of course, this is certainly possible with any action an organization could undertake, but in this analysis, we will be looking at analyzing each of our decisions about strategies for each market segment, new products or services, changes in our operations and outside resourcing.

In our core business segments, those market areas we are currently pursuing  actively, we will be making decisions about where we want to take each segment.  Do we want to stay on our current course, actively expand our efforts in this market segment or possibly even reduce our emphasis in the segment to put resources into more attractive areas, both other current market segments and possible new products or services we are considering offering?

The decisions we make in strategic planning will determine the future course and direction of the company / organization, so we want to be both aggressive and as safe as possible when we select what strategies and high level tactics we will be pursuing in the future.  To carry this out, we want to have the team look at decisions we make in our discussions about strategic issues and about the assumptions we have made in our future assessments of where each market segment is to be directed so that we can take into account the possible things that could go wrong with the actions we will be undertaking.

In our Simplified Strategic Planning seminar we give specific examples of problems encountered because the team forgot to look at the potential downside of well-intentioned objectives or strategies.  A simple example:  The goal decided upon by the city commission was to increase the ease of movement for people with physical disabilities by taking out the curbs at street crossings and putting in ramps so that wheel chair bound people and those who use crutches would be able to more easily negotiate crossing streets.  A noble intention, with positive impact on those people.  The unfortunate side effect was that it made it much easier for children on bicycles and skateboards to shoot across streets.  The potential for increased car-bike and car-skateboard accidents was increased as a result of this change.  This is a real example of a potential problem which could be caused by not taking all the factors into consideration.

While you won’t catch every possible problem, the intent of this analysis is to remind team members that things can go wrong with plans that have the greatest of intentions.  It will reward your  team by possibly eliminating or minimizing the impact of a well-intentioned action to review the decision with the mindset of trying to determine what could go wrong if not implemented properly, and , based on that analysis, deciding to proceed, with caution, or to change the objective or not to pursue it.

If your team needs guidance in performing this analysis or in your full strategic planning process, please contact me at baldwin@cssp.com or call me at 616-575-3193.

To learn ways to take your strategic planning to the next level please listen to our webinar:  Why my strategic planning isn’t working.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: baldwin@cssp.com

© Copyright 2016 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.