What Would Have to Be True?
Too as leaders and decision makers, we fail to reverse engineer our strategy.
The NBA playoffs are about to begin, and coaches are sitting in conference rooms developing strategies to give their teams the best chance of winning a title. The meetings will begin with personnel matchups referencing previous games, and thousands of ideas will be posed based on the countless hours of opponent tape that they’ve poured over. Everyone has the right intentions, but few will ask the most important question.
According to best-selling author and former Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto Roger Martin, the most effective question to pose before planning any strategy is: “What would have to be true?” Martin claims: “A team working on strategy should develop a range of possibilities that if successful would make the gap between aspirations and outcomes go away and then reverse-engineer each possibility to determine the W.W.H.T.B.T. for each to be the best strategy to pursue.”
Too often as leaders and decision makers, we fail to reverse engineer our strategy. We believe everything will go as planned once the game begins, holding on to a false narrative that only becomes apparent after the game. When we ask ourselves “W.W.H.T.B.T.” to get the outcome we desire, then the road map toward planning that strategy becomes more apparent.
According to Martin, “You should spend a minute every morning to pull out your W.W.H.T.B.T. and ask yourself to what extent it still holds true. If it doesn’t, start reviewing and revising your strategy then and there — regardless of what any schedule says. You will have the best chance of rejuvenating your strategy before its warts become evident. Remember, your W.W.H.T.B.T. is your canary in the coal mine.”
Regardless of the magnitude of any decision that awaits us, we must start by posing Martin’s critical question and then plan accordingly. It will save us precious time and most importantly, lead us to develop better strategies.