Thursday, February 21, 2013

Strategic Planning Analogy #490: The Indirect Route

One time, I was in Chicago on a business trip with some of my co-workers. It was a nice day and we had some time on our hands, so we decided to walk to the convention center, which was only a couple of miles away.

We looked at a map and found a simple, direct street to walk down. It looked easy. What the map didn’t show was the types of neighborhoods we’d be walking through. As it turns out, that direct route took us through a pretty dangerous section of Chicago. As we kept walking, the neighborhood kept getting worse.

My co-workers were starting to fear for their lives. Having grown up in the Detroit area, I was used to bad neighborhoods, but eventually even I was getting fearful.

We saw a taxi drive by and quickly got it to stop for us. Little did we know that we had almost completed our journey by then and the taxi only took us a few blocks to get to our destination.

Had we been more aware of our environment, we would not have chosen that route to walk. Yes, it may have been the most direct, the most efficient, and the fastest route. But it was not the safest route. We needlessly put our lives in danger. It would have been better off choosing a slower, more indirect path that was far safer.

Strategic planning is also about choosing a path—a path into the future. On first glance, it may appear that the best strategic path is the direct route. After all, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, so the strategic path is drawn as a straight line between where we are now and where we want to be. That type of thinking sounds practical, efficient, and speedy.

Unfortunately, it can also be wrong. The most direct route is not always the safest route. It may lead you into a mine field of difficulties.  The danger could be so great that it destroys the ability for the strategy to succeed.  It does no good to be faster and more efficient if you end up dying before reaching the destination.

No, sometimes the best path is longer and less direct. These paths can be safer and increase the likelihood of ultimate success. 

Although we live in an era which emphasizes speed, we need to remember that speed is not the ultimate goal.  The real goal is success. And sometimes the fastest path is not the best path for ensuring success. Therefore, when choosing a strategic path, do not automatically choose the fastest, most direct approach.

The Disadvantage of Bold Moves
There are several reasons why the direct approach can be less effective. First, it tends to loudly notify to the world (and to your competitors) what your intentions are. That can cause those opposing your strategy to wake up and fight you hard to prevent that path. Remember, almost every winning strategy causes someone else to lose. If those who are about to lose find out your intentions, they will try to keep you from winning. 

However, if you act more slowly and less directly, the opposition may not detect the threat as being as imminent or as devastating as it is. Therefore, they may put up less of a fuss in trying to stop you. By the time they figure it out, it may be too late for them to stop you.

Take, for example, Wal-Mart’s desire to be a significant player in banking. Wal-Mart first tried a very direct and fast approach to this strategic intent. Back in 1999, they applied for the right to buy a bank in Oklahoma.

This bold action quickly awakened the status quo banking industry to the threat posed by Wal-Mart. The banking industry immediately did everything in its power to influence the government to stop Wal-Mart from getting that bank. Congress was inundated by whatever forces the banking industry could bring to bear to stop Wal-Mart from ever buying a bank. And it worked. Wal-Mart could not buy a bank.

A few years later, in 2002, Wal-Mart tried again by attempting to buy an ILC (Industrial Loan Company), which is a step lower than a full-fledged bank. That also failed.

At this point, Wal-Mart tried a different tactic—the indirect route. Slowly, Wal-Mart started forming alliances with companies performing banking services. Since Wal-Mart did not own these businesses and since the partners were already allowed to be in these businesses, they would be difficult to stop. Also, because Wal-Mart added these pieces slowly in small chunks, no single act was large enough to get the industry in an uproar.

For example, Wal-Mart did deals with Moneygram and Sun Trust Bank for services like wire transfers, money orders and check cashing. It did a deal with Green Dot to create the Walmart Money Card, a reloadable prepaid card. And most recently, Wal-Mart worked with American Express to develop the Bluebird Card, a more aggressive move into the prepaid card business. 

Slowly, Wal-Mart is putting together a powerful financial offering, branded together in the store as Walmart Financial Services. It is to the point now where Walmart’s website has claimed them to be “a trusted name in financial services.” The slower, indirect path is working far better for Walmart than their earlier, more direct approach.
The Disadvantage of Out-Pacing Your Stakeholders
Another problem with moving too quickly is that you can move faster than your stakeholders are willing to go. No strategy works in isolation. Success depends on getting alignment with all sorts of other stakeholders, like your customers, your regulators, your suppliers, etc. If you get to far ahead of your partners, the strategy can fail.

For example, when McDonald’s wants to enter a new geographic area with restaurants, it does not just get some real estate and put up restaurants. That could be too fast for its suppliers. McDonald’s wants to guarantee that the burgers worldwide come from similar beef and the french fries come from similar potatoes. Therefore, it takes the slower, more indirect route of first working with farmers and distributors to make sure the right kinds of cows and potatoes in the right quantity are in the pipeline so that the stores have the right stuff to sell.

And in the Walmart example above, if Walmart had advanced directly from nothing into full-service banking in one step, it might have been too much for customers to accept. By moving slowly, Walmart has been able to move consumer perceptions along to allow them to accept getting financial services from a discount store.

One of the more interesting examples, however, is in the online poker business. Online poker sites can be extremely profitable for the companies who run them. However, the US government was banning the sites because on-line gambling is illegal in the US. The on-line sites could have directly tried to fight this, but they knew they would fail. So they took an indirect route.

A few years back, I remember all of the sudden seeing poker championship games being broadcast all over the place on cable TV in the US. Why the sudden surge in broadcasting Poker Tournaments, I wondered.

Well, here’s the story. The online poker people wanted to change the perception of poker from being a form of gambling to being a game of skill. That is because on-line gambling is defined as being a game of luck, which is illegal in the US. But games of skill are not considered gambling. 

What better way to convince people that Poker is a game of skill than to broadcast it like a sporting event on sports cable networks? The shows created poker winners who were becoming famous like athletes for their skilled plays. They had announcers on the show talking about the skilled plays being used by these skilled players.  

Slowly, but surely, perceptions were being changed. Poker was no longer just viewed as distasteful gambling hidden away in dark places. Now it was a skilled sporting event out in the wide open lights. Over time, this approach should be far more successful than the direct approach for the on-line poker companies.

A key part of strategic planning is developing the proper path to get from where a company is today to where it wants to be. Due to the desire to move quickly, many firms try to build direct paths to the desired future. However, direct paths can be fraught with dangers large enough to prevent success. As a result, it is often the slower, less direct approach which has the greater likelihood of success.

If you go online to choose a path to drive your car to your destination, the software often asks you which type of path you want: the most direct, the fastest, the one using the most highway, the one using the least highway, etc.  In other words, the software recognizes that the fastest path is not always the path you desire. If software can recognize that, then so should strategists. Check out other options which may lead increasing your chance of success.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Strategic Planning Analogy #489: Feeling the Weather


Weathermen on TV don’t seem to think it is enough to merely give us the outdoor temperature.  They don’t seem to think that ordinary temperatures accurately reflect how we FEEL. So on particularly hot days, they weathercasters talk about the “Heat Index.” The heat index temperature is usually higher than the actual temperature, because it takes into account things like the humidity, which can make it FEEL even hotter.

In a similar fashion, when it gets especially cold, the weathercasters use something call the “Wind Chill Factor” to restate the temperature as colder than the actual temperature. This is because high winds can make cold temperatures FEEL even colder.

Well, my experience is that when it gets especially hot or cold, most people seek shelter indoors where it is more comfortable. People naturally flock to the warmth of indoor heat when it is cold outside or indoor air conditioning when it is hot outside.

So, if the weathercasters are REALLY interested in giving us the temperature we FEEL on these extreme days, they should give us the room temperature…because that is where most people will be found and that will be the temperature most people will be feeling.


Weathermen are correct in noticing that the temperature reported on a thermometer does not always reflect how people feel. But I think they miss the even bigger difference in temperatures between being inside versus outside. That’s where the real difference in feelings occurs.

A similar situation takes place in the business world. Businesses have all kinds of reports and dashboards to report all kind of numbers. These reports and dashboards are like thermometers. They report the “temperature” of what is happening outside in the marketplace where business is taking place.

The problem is too many executives spend too much time indoors, inside the comfort and security of the headquarters building. These executives do not FEEL the realities of what is going on out there “in the real world.” They are protected from the intense competitive climate on the outside.  Things feel a lot better inside the headquarters where bad news is often softened and “Yes Men” make the executives feel like everything is grand.

Yes, the reports and dashboards may reflect real temperatures. But unless one can penetrate the false feelings of headquarters comfort and get the executives to really FEEL how things are going on in the real world, they will not make the right strategic decisions.


The principle here is that merely seeing the numbers of business is usually not enough.  You have to get executives to actually “feel” the numbers.

Feelings are Important
Why? First of all, business is very complex. There are so many moving parts that any single number doesn’t tell the full story. And if you have a whole stack of numbers, you are often no further ahead because it can be hard to see how all the individual numbers fit together.  It’s like having all the individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but no idea of what the picture looks like when all the pieces go together. At that point, the puzzle pieces may as well all be colored black for all the insight they provide.

Our modern technology can pump out thousands upon thousands of data points every hour. But that doesn’t mean we are necessarily any smarter about what’s going on. Drowning in “big data” doesn’t make us more intelligent. True knowledge requires more than just piles of numbers. It requires context and insight.

Context and insight help us to see the big picture—to actually feel what is going on, to know what is truly important, and to see into the future—beyond the reach of measurement tools.  Unless you can feel the big picture, you cannot create the big picture strategy or make the right strategy decisions.

The second reason while feelings are important is because people are emotional beings. They make decisions based on both reason and emotion.  Our customers are emotional beings, our employees are emotional beings, our partners are emotional beings, and our competitors are emotional beings. All of their emotional feelings impact what happens outside in the marketplace.  If our leaders do not have a proper feeling for how all those emotions are playing out in the marketplace, they will make the wrong decision.

Our leaders are also emotional beings.  Their feelings affect their decisions.  If their feelings are wrongly biased by spending too much time insulated inside headquarters, their feelings will steer them in the wrong direction.

What Should We Do to Move From Numbers to Feelings
So how do we make sure that our leaders are feeling the big picture in the proper context?  I have five suggestions.

1. Elevate the Art of Interpetation.  The gathering of “big data” numbers is only relevant when those numbers can be interpreted and put into context.  We need to be able to put a heat index or wind chill factor on the numbers to get them to reflect how things really feel. 

Just having a warehouse full of paint will not get you a great painting.  You need to add the artist who can create the picture out of the paint.  Similarly, just having a data warehouse full of numbers will not let you see the big picture of what is going on in the marketplace.  You need to add the analytical “artist” who can convert the data into the beautiful picture of what is going on.

Therefore, we need to elevate the importance of interpretation of data to the same level (if not more) than that of the gathering of the data.  Ask yourself…how much time and money has gone into building you data-gathering activities?  And then compare that to how much time and money is going into the interpretation and conversion of that data into a picture that allows executives to feel the big picture of what is going on.  Is it in balance?  Are you warehousing paint or are you creating paintings?

2. Get the Executives to Go Outside.  If the weathercasters really want us to know what it feels like outside, they should just tell us to go outside and feel it.  There is often no substitute for actual first-hand experience in the elements. If you really want to know how things feel, go feel it yourself.

Have top executives go on sales calls.  Have them go to the store or website and actually have to try to buy your product.  Make them have to actually use your product in real life situations.  Then have them buy and use the competition.  Watch how real customers interact with your product or service out in real-world situations at their homes or place of business.  Eat lunch with regular employees in the regular cafeteria.  I talk more about getting out in the field here.

3. Listen to the Outside Voices.  If all your executives listen to is each other, then they will only feel the temperature inside the corporation. To feel the outside temperature, you have to listen to the people who are living outside in the real world. That includes the employees in the field, customers and other key partners.

Modern technology makes it easy to hear the voice of the field and the voice of the customer.  But how much of these voices are being heard by the top executives?  Just telling an executive sales are down is one thing.  Having them hear the rantings of the dissatisfied customers who stopped purchasing is quite another.  It provides a context for how to fix the situation.

Have executives listen in on the complaint line.  Have them read the comments spoken in twitter and other digital sources.  Have them see survey comments.

4. Tear Down the Insulation.  If you want the temperature inside the headquarters to feel more like the outside temperature, then you need to tear down the insulation which keeps the outside “truth” from reaching executives. Employees need to feel that comfortable in speaking the truth when talking to top executives.  It needs to be okay to speak up when the conventional wisdom inside the headquarters appears to be out of sync with what is happening outside.

5. Make Strategic Planning More About Painting Pictures.  Finally, I am getting more and more concerned about the fact that modern strategic planning departments are turning into data organizers rather than picture painters.  They manage budgets and deviations from plans, but are not providing the types of insights which change how an executive feels about what needs to get done. I see more job specifications in strategic planning asking for CPAs than I see requests for great storytellers.  If your strategists cannot paint pictures with compelling stories, then you are back to merely having piles of data (and wondering why budgets are not being met).


If executives are insulated from the harsh realities of the marketplace, they will have the wrong impressions of what is going on (and make the wrong decisions). Just giving them piles of data from the outside is not enough.  Strategists need to make sure context is placed around the data so that executives can actually feel what is happening in the real world. It needs to strike a chord deep within their emotions.  To help in this process, combine the context-making with plans to force executives to spend more time interacting with the real word and the people in it.


Maybe the best way to keep executives from hiding in headquarters offices is to eliminate headquarters offices.  There are many companies which do this.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Strategic Planning Analogy #488: Two Stories on Change Management

Turning a strategy into reality often requires significant change from the status quo. Unfortunately, whenever change is asked for, resistance will occur. If this resistance is not dealt with, the strategy implementation can fail.

In most cases, you should be able to come up with compelling arguments as to why the change is right and necessary. After all, if you cannot come up with compelling arguments, perhaps your change strategy isn’t as good as you thought it was.

But even when the argument is compelling, sometimes the resistance can be strong, particularly if particular groups feel especially threatened by the change. Just think about how strongly the unions in the US have reacted in recent year when state and local governments tried to come up with new solutions to fix the underfunded pensions for government employees. A change is clearly needed, but any change is being aggressively resisted. 

So the question becomes, what does one do when logic and reason will not sway the resisters.  The following are two options.


Option #1 Story

I’m sure most of you have heard the story of the frog in the pot of water. When scientists put a frog into a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately sense danger and jump out of the pot.  However, when scientists put the frog into a pot of room temperature water, the the frog will stay in the water. And if you head the water slowly enough, the frog will not sense the danger and will remain in the water even as it approaches boiling. The frogs end up dying in that boiling water without jumping, because the change was too gradual for them to notice.

Option #1 Analogy
Like the frog who jumps when thrust into boiling water, people resist when they sense a large imminent threat. The way to keep the frog from resisting was to slow down the change to a pace that was imperceptible. That pace of change was so gradual that the frog did not realize it was eventually being boiled to death. So it did not resist.

In a similar fashion, if you make the timing of your changes gradual enough, you may be able to implement the entire change program over time without resistance. The idea is to package each change initiative in a bundle which is too small to trigger massive resistance. The change is slow and evolutionary. And if you have the luxury of time, this can be an effective tool.

As an example, look at the packaged food industry.  There are many reasons why it could be in the interest of these companies to convert their food products to a more nutritious formulation (less salt and fat). After all, there is the threat of governments creating “fat taxes” to punish non-nutritious foods. Or the governments could ban certain food formulations. Or public interest groups could file massive class-action lawsuits against companies deemed as harming the public through “unhealthy” formulations. The past experience of the tobacco industry in the US could eventually hit the food industry, if they do not change.

Unfortunately, if these companies make massive changes to their formulations, they can turn off their customer base who preferred the old formula. Radical formulation changes like “New Coke” almost ruined the brand.

One alternative is to make a series of small formulation changes over time, making them too small to notice or create an uproar. Then, over time enough salt and fat can be removed from the formula to remove some of the long-term threats mentioned earlier.  And because the taste changed so gradually, the customers were able to adapt without much resistance.  This is the strategy used by many food companies.

Another example of this evolutionary approach is to create change via attrition.  Treat current employees different from new employees.  Over time, the new employees (and their employment relationship) will replace the old in a peaceful manner.  Or gradually fire those executives who resist change and replace them with executives who embrace the change.


Option #2 Story

In 1519, when Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez landed in Mexico, one of the first orders he gave to his men was to burn the ships. Cortez was committed to his mission of capturing the treasure in the hands of the Aztecs. Cortez did not want to allow himself or his men the option of quickly giving up and going back to Spain. By burning the ships, he removed this option, and his men were forced to focus on how they could make the mission to capture the wealth of the New World successful.

Option #2 Analogy
If you don’t want your people to resist change by retreating to the status quo, you can stop that by eliminating that option. When Cortez burned the ships, he took away the ability to retreat. So the only option was to move forward.  You can do the same.

For example, if you sell or shut down the status quo business, then you cannot go back.  GE has a long history of selling off the businesses in industries no longer important to its strategy.  Once the business is sold, it’s very difficult to go back. 

Other companies set up the new strategy under a new legal structure.  The people transferred to the new strategy are now employees in the new legal structure and it becomes extremely difficult to get “rehired” back into the old legal structure. In essence, that pathway has been burned. You have to make the new strategy work or you are unemployed.

This second, more revolutionary approach is ideal when you do not have the luxury of time and when the transformation in front of you is rather daunting. The arguments for resisting go away, because even if the resisters could win the argument, it is a moot point. There is nothing to go back to. The option is burned. 

These two options seem rather extreme. This may create a desire to try something half-way in-between.  The in-between approach, however, may be the worst option.  If you speed up the transformation into larger, more painful chunks AND provide a path back to the status quo, you have the worst of all worlds:

1.      Irritated Resisters; and
2.      A way for the Irritated Resisters to regain control and take the company back.

No, the extremes are better.

When the normal process of change management does not appear to be an option, there are two other, more extreme alternatives.  The evolutionary approach is to slow down the change and make it evolve at a pace where each step of change is below the level that would create significant resistance.  The revolutionary approach is to abruptly eliminate the option to stay in place, so that the only option is to move forward. The worst alternative is to take a middle position, as it gives resisters both the motivation to resist and a pathway back to the status quo.

These extreme options may not be ideal, but they may need to be considered when normal approaches appear to be unworkable.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Strategic Planning Analogy #487: Tying-Out Fantasies

Years ago, I worked for a CFO who liked to tell this story. He said that in a lifetime of being in finance he had seen hundreds, if not thousands of financial pro formas. He said that almost without exception, every one of those pro formas projected a financial outcome high enough to exceed whatever financial hurdle was necessary to get a project approved.

Yet, once the best of those projects were approved and put into action, a significant proportion of those projects would be dismal failures. And one could assume that if a high percentage of the better projects failed, an even higher percentage of the ones not approved would have also failed.

So how is it that so many projects with favorable financial pro formas at the beginning turned out to be dismal failures in the end? It was enough to get this CFO to lose confidence in the value of most pro formas. Yet, as CFO, a large percentage of his job was in dealing with pro formas. It got him very discouraged.

Strategic planning deals with the future.  Even though the future is not known, we try to make projections about how we think the future could occur under various scenarios. Then we choose the strategic plan which appears to have the best future outcome.

These strategic plans tend to be like a more sophisticated version of a financial pro forma, which also tries to quantify the future.  In the story, we saw that there was not a strong correlation between a great pro forma projection and a great future outcome. Similarly, strategic outcomes rarely look like our initial projections. Hardly anyone would willingly promote a strategic path that they knew would fail, yet many strategies do, in fact, fail. Even when the planning process is thorough and dives deep into the details, the targeted numbers in the plan are often woefully missed.

It’s enough to get one very discouraged.

The principle here has to do with the concept of “accuracy.” In both the world of finance and the world of strategy, we would like to have accurate projections. Yet, as we have seen, even a strong desire for accuracy does not guarantee that financial pro formas and strategic plans will do a very good job of capturing reality.

Part of the problem is that a person can take two approaches to accuracy.  We’ll call them “Internal Linkage” accuracy and “External Linkage” accuracy.  One of these approaches is far better at eliminating unpleasant surprise outcomes than the other.  And far too often, companies focus on the wrong one.

Internal Linkage Accuracy
Internal linkage accuracy is concerned with making sure the mechanics of the modeling mesh together properly. Areas where the eye to accuracy is focused on in this approach include:

1.      Making sure the balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement all tie out precisely (without rounding).
2.      Making sure all the sub-accounts are filled and add up to the total.
3.      Making sure the precise cost of capital is used.
4.      Making sure all the boxes are filled in on the forms and scorecards.
5.      Making sure there are measurable KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) for every initiative.
6.      Making sure you have all the proper sign-offs by the required people.
7.      Making sure all of the data is accurately represented, and fully tied to the stated strategic goals and annual budgets.

The idea here is to make sure everything in the process ties together. The assumption is that if there is a high degree of accuracy in getting all the parts of the process to agree, then you have a good, solid plan. The comfort comes from having lots of numbers carried out to several decimal points.

External Linkage Accuracy
External Linkage Accuracy, on the other hand, is concerned with making sure the internal strategy meshes together with the anticipated external marketplace where the strategy will be executed. Areas where the eye to accuracy is focused in this approach include:

1.      Making sure the strategy is superior to all the external alternatives in solving a problem important to your consumer segment. These can be similar or dis-similar alternatives.
2.      Making sure competitive reaction is factored into the analysis.
3.      Making sure evolving technologies and social issues are taken into account.
4.      Making sure the company and its employees are willing and capable of delivering on the promises inherent in the strategy.
5.      Making sure to factor in changes over time in external factors such as raw material pricing, final product pricing, consumer adoption rates, etc.

The idea here is that the more accurately your strategy accounts for the external dynamics, the more likely the strategy will succeed in that environment. The comfort comes not so much from numbers, but from relative superiority and strategic fit.

Why a Focus on External Linkage is Better
If you want your strategy to succeed in the future, the focus on external linkage is more important than the focus on internal linkage. After all, making sure your financial statements tie out is worthless if all the financial statements are based on horribly inaccurate assumptions about the external environment. Getting bad numbers to tie out doesn’t instantly convert them into good numbers. They’re still bad numbers.

Think about Iridium. This was a company formed back in the early days of cell phones. Their strategy was to ignore the conventional land-based broadcast tower approach to cell phone transmissions. Instead, they would transmit all signals via a network of satellites in space. This strategy was extremely capital intensive.  Putting up a network of satellites costs a fortune. Therefore, I would assume that all of their internal calculations had to tie together pretty well in order to get the strategy approved.  And I’m also confident that those internally accurate calculations showed a positive return on investment. Otherwise, they would not have proceeded with the project.

Unfortunately, Iridium proved to be one of the largest value-destroying strategies of the late 20th century. It was a dismal failure. The reason Iridium failed was because the external links were terrible. Iridium’s success was based on the following assumptions:

  1. Cell phone adoption rates would stay relatively low (a niche product). This would make it impractical to fully build out a land-based transmission system. There would be too many holes in the land-based network to make it practical.
  1. Land-based cell phone service charges would remain at or near current high levels. As a result, it would be possible to spend a fortune on satellites and still sell the service at lower rates than the land-based companies. 
  1. Phones would remain large, so that the larger mechanics needed to transmit to satellites would fit in them.
These assumptions turned out to be totally inaccurate.  Prices dropped dramatically and adoption rates soared. Land-based networks filled nearly all of the holes.  Smaller phone sizes could not accommodate the needs for satellite transmissions. As a result, Iridium could not effectively compete, because its cost structure made it impossible for them to match the new pricing environment. That left Iridium viable with only a small sector of the industry—spies, the military, and ships at sea—not enough to generate a profit.

Has Iridium spent less time on internal accuracy and more time on external accuracy, they probably would not have made the mistake of moving forward.

A professor once told me about a research project which compared pro forma performance to actual performance. The results looked something like the nearby chart. The study found that most pro formas projected results which tightly clustered near the hurdle point for success.  However, most projects ended up at the extremes—either very good or very bad. Very few were near the hurdle point.

As a result, internal precision seems out of touch with reality. If most projects tend towards the extremes, then fine-tuning internal models near the hurdle rate is not the best use of one’s time.  Instead, one needs to spend more time on the softer issues to determine if the external fit is high or low.

So Why Do Companies Focus Internally?
If external accuracy is so much more important, why do so many companies focus internally?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. A lot of strategic planning takes place in finance departments, where there is more comfort in the CPA mindset of putting a priority on making sure all the numbers tie.
  2. Internal issues are more controllable, so there is more comfort focusing there.
  3. People are personally motivated to make big bonuses, so they focus on the goals and the budgets, because they help determine bonuses.
  4. It is easier (and less controversial) to find a mistake in math than a mistake in assumptions.
  5. The people managing the process are evaluated based on their ability to manage the process, so they focus on getting the process right rather than getting the assumptions right.
We need to overcome some of these biases towards an internal focus and create more incentives around a focus on external accuracy.

When seeking accuracy, one can take two approaches. One can focus on making sure there are good internal linkages within the numerical process.  Or one can focus on making sure there is a strong fit between the strategy and the evolving external environment.  The latter approach is more likely to lead to success.

This is not to say that sloppy internal processes should be tolerated.  Instead, one can perhaps step away from the costly and time consuming effort to drill down too deep internally and use some of that effort to fine tune the assumptions related to the external.