The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to do About It). Michael E. Raynor. Crown Business.

The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to do About It) Book Cover The Strategy Paradox: Why Committing to Success Leads to Failure (And What to do About It)
Michael E. Raynor
Crown Business
February 20, 2007

A compelling vision. Bold leadership. Decisive action. Unfortunately, these prerequisites of success are almost always the ingredients of failure, too. The reason, managers must make choices with far-reaching consequences today, but less based those choices on assumptions about a future they cannot predict. It is this collision between commitment and uncertainty that creates The Strategy Paradox.

Michael E. Raynor, coauthor of the bestselling The Innovator’s Solution, explains, through vivid examples at major companies like Sony, Microsoft, Vivendi Universal, Johnson & Johnson, and AT&T, that when most companies fail, it is not because of poor planning or execution, but because of bad luck. For example, Sony’s plans for the Mini-Disk were carefully thought out, meticulously researched, and flawlessly executed; they failed simply because the market for online music overtook the electronics market in ways no one could have anticipated. And this is the central dilemma of The Strategy Paradox – any future strategy, even one perfectly executed, may well fail, because the future cannot be predicted.

So what should companies do? Raynor suggests that the only way to successfully plan for the future is to develop practical strategies based on multiple choices that respond to the different requirements of several possible futures, rather than on single strategic commitments. In other words, companies must hedge their bets. He suggests corporations manage this strategic uncertainty in the following way:

  • Anticipate: building scenarios of the future
  • Formulate: creating optimal strategies for each of those features
  • Accumulate: determining what strategic options are required
  • Operate: managing portfolios of options

Raynor presents a concrete framework for strategic action that allows companies to overcome this dilemma and sees today’s opportunities while simultaneously preparing for tomorrow’s promise. In the cutthroat world of competitive strategy, this is as close as you can come to getting something for nothing.

Michael E. Raynor, of Deloitte Consulting LLP, is a Distinguished Fellow with Deloitte Research in Boston and works extensively with clients worldwide. Is the coauthor with Clayton M. Christensen, of the bestselling The Innovator’s Solution. Raynor has a doctorate from the Harvard Business School and is an Adjunct Professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business in London, Canada. He lives in Mississauga, Canada.