Steven's Blog

Secret to Persuasive Strategy: To Persuade Others that you’re Right, Talk about why you might be Wrong

All senior level executives and managers are asked to develop and present a strategy, whether global, regional, or simply for a domain that they oversee. Many create long slide presentations with lots of data to justify why the strategy is right, and feel they need to persuade others and convince them. Their arguments provide support for their conclusion. However, the most effective way to persuade others that your strategy is right is to talk about all the reason it might be wrong.

All strategies are based on assumptions, whether explicitly stated or not. Click To Tweet

For example, “This course of action is based on the assumption that are only three major competitor brands in the Japan market.” What could possibly go wrong?

Every strategic assumption’s mirror image is a risk and can be restated as such. For example, “The risk is that brand X, which has been ignoring the Japan market up to now, decides to enter.” How do you handle risk? You can take action to prevent the risk from realizing, and you can plan contingent action should the risk be realized.

While it may seem to detract from the persuasiveness of your strategy to talk about everything that might go wrong, the reality is the opposite. If you can explicitly enumerate assumptions, restate them as risks, say when you will be able to validate whether or not each assumption pans out, and talk about your preventative actions and contingencies plans, you will become off as highly convincing. You will have demonstrated that you have thought your strategy through, and are prepared to safeguard the business when things go awry–and things always go awry.

Strategy, its management, and its execution are just as much about process as content. If you can demonstrate that you have sound processes for these, the specific content of the strategy matters less. You show yourself as someone who is in control because of strength in strategic process capability, not just brilliance in strategic content development.

For most people, a process that works is all that is needed.

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