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Entrepreneurs, Be Careful That Your Agility Doesn't Lead to a "Strategy du Jour!"

One of the chief benefits of being a small business is the agility that being small enables.  Smart entrepreneurs have learned to quickly "pivot" (total change of direction) when a strategy, or even a whole business model is not working.  "Fail early, fail often," can truly help entrepreneurial innovation. However, this philosophy can be both the biggest asset and the biggest liability for a young business, if it becomes a mode of operation.

The term agility is most often used in describing an athlete. Typically, portraying one who can easily and quickly react and change direction, while maintaining balance and forward progress.  Those last two are critical. Think about that same athlete continually reacting and changing direction. Both balance and forward progress would be seriously impacted.

The same thing can happen with entrepreneurial businesses.  Constant reaction and directional changes often result in the entrepreneur driving a "strategy du jour" mindset and the business failing to progress as it continually changes direction. So how do you embrace your agility and use the 'fail early, fail often" philosophy to your best advantage?

Define Success

Whether it's for an innovative new product or even an overall business model, without a definition of success, either in terms of meeting certain milestones or achieving specifically-defined objectives over time, or both, you're "building castles in the air," with no foundation purpose. And define whether "success" means you have to achieve some percentage or 100% of those milestones/objectives. Otherwise, success is subjective and you could be "pivoting" when all you need to do is "tweak."

Develop Market Assumptions

These are the external (and sometimes internal) factors that can/will influence your product or business model.  These could range from issues like competitor actions (new product introduction) to the impact of the economy to acceptance of certain technological advances to the availability of resources when you need them.  Continually test these market assumptions.

Have a Game Plan (And Know Why)

Develop that series of strategic or tactical steps that you believe will get you to success and why (based on market assumptions) you think these steps will help you reach those goals. The rationale is about as important as the strategies and tactics. It forces you to justify them.

React and Change (Under Control)

If market assumptions change or are proven wrong or certain strategic or tactical steps in your plan prove unworkable, either due to resource constraints or market/customer reaction. Quickly determine what needs to change and then do it.  Then, stay vigilant.

"Pivot"

If over a reasonable period of time your definition of success appears unattainable. Then you need to question the entire innovation or business model because the very foundation upon which you were building it has come into question.

Considering these five factors should keep you out of trouble, but more important help you use your inherent agility as a small company without being in a constant reactive mode with a "strategy du jour."

The Entrepreneur's Yoda knows these things.  He's been there.  May success be with you!

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