The four ways to avoid strategic drift

Smart business is knowing the four ways to avoid strategic drift – as well as the three reasons it typically occurs.

Our previous blog post explored what exactly strategic drift is and the four phases of it, now let’s learn how your organization can work to avoid it.

Reasons for strategic drift

Understanding why strategic drift happens can go a long way to helping organisations avoid it. Although not foolproof, it’s always better to know the pitfalls and risks, thereby increasing the likelihood of avoiding them.

Management complacency

This is a double-edged sword that organizations can fall on; it’s both management complacency and inflexible perspectives for change that affect strategic drift.

This usually occurs when existing management has been with the company for a while and found prior success. This can lead to management holding preconceived notions as to how the market should work and what consumers want, something that typically occurs when they’ve had previous success in their strategy and direction. This can lead to inflexibility, which in turn can lead to change being stalled.

Group culture

Group culture, or group think, occurs when groups strive to agree with one another and is most common when group members are very similar when the group is led by a powerful and charismatic leader, and when the group is under extreme stress.

Because stress runs in tandem with poor organizational results, it’s important to solve group dynamic issues sooner than later because groupthink will gradually become more difficult to combat.

Failing to understand customer demand

When organizations spend too much time focusing on producing goods and services, and not enough time understanding what customers need or want, strategic drift can occur.

This lack of foresight is all too common and termed ‘marketing myopia’. Nokia for example, once a market leader in the mobile phone industry, lost significant market share to Apple and Android after assuming mobile phones are only useful for messaging and snake games.

If Nokia had focused on its customers, they would have seen their demand for GPS, flashlights, calculators, etc, and may still be considered a market leader today.

So now we know why strategic drift happens – how do you avoid it?
Develop an early warning system

By establishing regular reviews of your external environment, you can identify and react to strategic drift before you’re in Phase 4: Transformation or Die.

Like any problem, the longer it takes to recognise and resolve the problem the nastier and harder to solve the problem becomes.

By conducting regular external analyses, you’ll have the ability to react to any of the trends in the external environment by creating a change management strategy to address the change.

Foster a fearless culture to prevent unhealthy group think

As identified earlier, group think can be the death of progress. Three steps to developing a fearless culture include:

  1. Avoid managers giving their opinions when assigning tasks. Give people time to come up with their own ideas first
  2. Assign one individual of the group the be the “devil’s advocate”
  3. Consult outside parties for impartial opinions

Curious about group think? Learn more about it in this article.

Create a solid vision statement

We’ve identified that failing to understand market demand leads to ‘marketing myopia’, creating tunnel vision in what you provide to your consumers.

To mitigate it, it’s helpful to have a solid vision statement, to ensure your organization is focused on achieving your vision as opposed to the success of a single product offering or business model.

Encourage organizational flexibility

Making changes, whether transformational or incremental, requires accountability and alignment. You’ll need to develop or acquire the processes and systems needed to communicate this change to your organization and then monitor this change.

The more flexibility, the more buy-in from employees. Your team is more likely to feel engaged, and listened to and therefore, want to be part of the organisation, its goals and its development. This is a factor that is often underrated, but one of such key importance that it cannot be understated.

Now that you know what strategic drift is, and how to avoid it, you and your organization can start to prepare for it and keep yourself ahead of the curve.

The tip to avoiding strategic drift and instead seeing you strategy grow… Empiraa of course! Learn more about our product and what it can do for you and your team.

October 14, 2022
Ashley McVea
Head of Marketing @ Empiraa