Strategy is About Saying “No” Just as Much as “Yes”

Many people don’t realize that saying “no” to ideas is very much an integral part of the strategic process. It is much easier to say “yes” to ideas, projects and new initiatives because it avoids conflict, keeps employees engaged and generally requires less effort.

Executives that have developed a knack for saying “no” realize the importance of keeping the business focused on the key imperatives. Saying “yes” to a project can easily lead a company off track and consume valuable resources that could be used to support a project that is more important to the company.

So how do you avoid embracing a “yes” culture. Well, there are a few things you can do:

1) Communicate the strategic priorities of the company. Employees can’t stay on track if they don’t know what track they should be on. Small companies (<5 employees) rely on the CEO to keep things tight and focused but large companies (>100 employees) need to plan for strategic priorities to be communicated.

2) Train senior managers to effectively say “no”. Nothing can be more demotivating than having an idea shot down in a thoughtless and insensitive way. Many great ideas start out as half baked and all they need is a little more time in the incubator.

3) Challenge new ideas at the strategic/financial and competitive level. Any new idea or business case should have sound rationale or a bullet proof business case to support it. If it doesn’t then that is a good reason to send the idea back to the drawing board.

4) Ensure there is a disciplined process in place for managing new ideas. A disciplined process will help flush out good ideas from bad ideas before it gets to the go/no go stage. Adhoc reviews of projects and business cases may result in some good ideas being dismissed without completing a proper due diligence phase.

Don’t leave success to chance, plan and execute with discipline.

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