Why most business initiatives fail (plus a process to ensure they succeed)


Guest post by Don Gregory, president of OnTarget Consulting

A very wise mentor of mine once asked the rhetorical question “how do you introduce a new business initiative as quickly and as successfully as possible?”  His answer, “ask and answer all the questions that need to be answered as early in the development process as possible and don’t move forward until they are answered.  Not doing so will lead to failure.”

For many of us, his answer is deflating!  Speed is critical.  We are trained to look for ways to take shortcuts.  It is impossible to know all the questions to ask, let alone answer all of them.   Trying to do so only slows things down and gives the competition the advantage.  Issues can be addressed as they come up.

Through experience, I have come to see that his answer was correct.   More importantly, creating and nurturing a business culture that asks and answers questions very early in the development process increases speed to market, reduces costs and increases customer acceptance.  It also strengthens the overall power and profitability of the brand.

Utilizing a process to ask and answer key questions is essential.    Following is one that has proven to be successful.  It is not new and there is no secret to It but it does provide the discipline and rigor that will lead to success.

  1. Build an initial draft of the plan that you believe will be successful. Utilize available category, competitive and customer insights in its development. The plan must identify both the customer-focused actions critical for success as well as the company-focused responsibilities required for success.
  2. Test the viability of the initial plan with key internal stakeholders and audiences.  Present the details and assumptions associated with the plan, including their intended outcomes. Pro-actively seek feedback.  Identify and prioritize strengths and weaknesses with the plan. The goal of this step is to have those within your organization who will be responsible for plan success to provide honest feedback and offer suggestions to improve the plan at its earliest stage of development.
  3. Utilize the findings from this initial review to refine and strengthen the plan. As needed, re-present an updated plan to internal stakeholders to further refine and strengthen it.
  4. Identify and prioritize the key elements of the plan that you believe will be most critical to achieve customer acceptance and demand (including the successful implementation of the plan). Conduct market research and/or test the key elements of the plan with key customer segments to gain insights to improve and strengthen it.
  5. Finalize the plan based on all internal stakeholder and customer feedback.
  6. Develop and implement performance tracking tools and strategies to measure plan success and to prioritize areas where the plan needs to be improved.
  7. Implement the plan and pro-actively modify it as required.

As leaders, we are under increasing pressure to perform and the business challenges we face are only becoming more complex.    The practices that many leaders follow are not longer working.  Failure is becoming more the norm than the exception.  Could part of the solution be as simple as to ask and answer all the questions that need to be answered as early as possible?  I believe so.

Don Gregory is a business and market growth specialist who has gained valuable experience by working with a wide range of companies and organizations at various stages of business and market maturity. He has a strong conviction that successful organizations must manage the processes that lead to business health; consistently measuring their performance while being willing to modify go-to-market strategies when needed. That’s the only way long-term financial health can be achieved and maintained.  You can reach Don at hello@ontargetnow.com.