The process that is often used in strategic planning has a built in landmine to step on. The biggest and most deadly one is assuming you can predict the future. According to John Paul Kotter who is regarded as the foremost speaker on Leadership and Change, 70% of all strategic plans fail worldwide. During my consulting with many different clients I have observed senior executives who are running organizations with flat or declining growth are often unsure what to do about it.

If you have ever gone through a full strategic lifecycle of three years that began with a prime strategy and was executed through a full implementation I’ll bet there were three things you might have experienced:

  • You changed your execution quite a bit along the way
  • The results you received were not what you expected
  • Your leadership team was not fully in alignment with the prime strategy

These experiences are common to many senior leaders and their team members and explains why strategic planning is so important and at the same time, so difficult to do successfully. In today’s click-through marketplace things change far more quickly than they did in previous years. That’s obvious. Take the national and international taxis systems used for decades based upon a licensed driver with a medallion from the associated Taxi Company. Then enters a market disruption in the form of UBER Technologies, Inc. that begins to offer peer-to-peer transportation and ride-sharing and immediately grabs major market share away from the traditional taxi providers. And this changes how people commute in most major cities and in suburban areas as well.

How did this happen so quickly to the established and deeply entrenched taxi companies? The simple answer is UBER offered an attractive solution to the common problem of getting from Point A to Point B by offering a much less complicated process. You know what I’m talking about. Ordering a ride wherever you are using their App, getting picked up and driven to where you want to go, getting out without having to sit while the driver uses your credit card to pay for and print a receipt. With UBER you simply get out and all of that is auto-magically processed and emailed to you.

The landmine that many leaders step on is assuming too much of their knowledge of the marketplace and their strategic position in it. Consumers and customers have more power than ever today. They can communicate and voice concern in the way businesses treat them. They can vote with their browsers and purchase things all over the world from their desktop. And they don’t trust organizations that say one thing and do another; and word travels fast when that happens.

To help ensure you don’t fall prey to this scenario you need to start shaping your organization’s strategy to your customers’ expectations. While this is not always an easy solution for organizations that have strongly entrenched “Internal Mindsets” about themselves and those they serve, leaders are well advised to put aside their assumptions and find out what their customers really need and want. They should do this before creating their next “Big Strategy” and trying it out on them. According to Kotter, the odds are with you if you’ll invest the time with this more discerning approach.