Paradox Consistency vs the Brick Wall

Paradox: Consistency vs. the Brick Wall

One of the stubborn paradoxes in business planning is the problem of consistency vs. the brick wall.

Consistency is important in small business strategy. It’s better to have a mediocre strategy consistently applied over three or more years than a series of brilliant strategies, each applied for six months or so. However, people often get bored with consistency, and the people running a strategy are bored with it long before the market understands it.

For example, I was consulting with Apple Computer during the 1980s when the Macintosh platform became the foundation of desktop publishing. Back in 1985, when the first laser printers came out, it was a revolutionary change. Suddenly, a single person in a home office could produce professional-looking documents.

I believe that the smart young managers at Apple got bored with desktop publishing long before the market even understood it. They started looking at multimedia and other new things, lost concentration on desktop publishing, and lost market potential as Windows vendors introduced competitive products.

The brick wall, on the other hand, refers to the futility of implementing a flawed plan. Sometimes people persist in doing something "because that’s the plan" even when it’s not working. This kind of thinking contributed to the success or failure of web companies during the dotcom boom. It also explains why some business experts question the value of the business plan.

The consistency vs. revision paradox highlights the importance of having people, rather than algorithms or artificial intelligence, involved in business planning. It takes people to make critical judgments in such situations.

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A good way to handle this paradox is by focusing on the assumptions. Identify the key assumptions and whether they have changed. If assumptions have changed, there is no virtue in sticking to a plan that was built on outdated assumptions. Consider whether you were wrong about the whole thing or just the timing. Has something else occurred, such as market problems or disruptive technology, that has altered your basic assumptions?

Don’t revise your plan hastily. Remember that some of the best strategies take time to implement. Also, keep in mind that you live with the plan every day, so it will naturally seem old and boring to you long before the target audience grasps it.

Don’t revise your plan hastily. Remember that some of the best strategies take time to implement. Also, keep in mind that you live with the plan every day, so it will naturally seem old and boring to you long before the target audience grasps it.

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