Improve your strategic planning – WRAP it!

If ever there was a book that could help improve strategic planning, it’s Decisive, How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.

In this book, authors Chip and Dan Heath reveal the cause of so many poor decisions and offer advice on how to make better ones.

According to the book, our usual process looks like this:

  • We encounter a choice.
  • We analyze our options.
  • We make a choice.
  • Then we live with it.

This sounds logical and familiar. Most of us would pat ourselves on the back for being so rational.

The problem, as the Heath’s point out, is that there is a fatal flaw at each stage:

  • Narrow framing makes us miss other options when we encounter a choice.
  • Confirmation bias makes us gather self-serving information.
  • Short term emotions often tempt us into making the wrong choice.
  • We’re overconfident about how the future will unfold and stick to one path once we’ve made our choice.

Luckily, the Heath’s suggest four strategies to counteract your biases. They sum them up in the acronym, WRAP:

  • Widen your options.
  • Reality-test your assumptions
  • Attain distance before deciding
  • Prepare to be wrong

Using WRAP for better strategic planning.

If you are revisiting the same choices and only talking to yourselves, you are likely short circuiting the optimal impact of your planning.

Using the WRAP model, here are a few ideas for improving your planning:

First, adopt the attitude that everything is on the table for re-examination. Even if you know you are great and doing absolutely the right thing, adopt humble inquiry for the life of your planning process. Hubris is the enemy here.

If you find yourself choosing between a “whether or not” decision, you’ve narrowed your options.

  • Add a few more truly legitimate choices.
  • Explore all choices simultaneously.
  • Benchmark against other organizations.

Reality test your assumptions by getting out the door and asking others for advice, including those with expertise in your field, your rivals, and your harshest critics. Use this Quaker saying as a guide – Everyone owns a piece of the truth. Listen for it.

There is such a bias in strategic planning to get it done and be over with it, that we often choose making any decision over making the best one. 

  • Ditch dot voting as it tends to lead to the easiest and most popular rather than the best decisions.
  • Avoid planning in a day.  Take time to reflect on the data you’ve collected. And you’ll need time to think unemotionally about the path you want to tred.
  • You can even take your draft plan back to your respected advisors for more input.

In planning, you are constantly making predictions about the future. The danger to developing a strong plan is to assume only one future scenario is likely. Instead,

  • Prepare for the bad along with the good.
  • Develop a risk assessment plan. Ask questions such as what could go wrong if we take this path? How would we mitigate or prepare for the risk we might encounter at each stage?
  • Have a Plan B, even a Plan C.
  • Develop an alarm system to tell you when your worst case is coming true.

What methods have you used to open up your decision-making? I’d love to hear stories about how you apply the WRAP model.

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