We all like the thought of continuous forward progress, accelerating onwards and upwards toward a strategic goal or outcome. But many times our march to the future is best served by a tactical pause in which we consolidate our gains, check our bearings, clear our thoughts and equip ourselves for the next phase of our journey.
As a consultant, I’m often in the position of recommending that the first step in any customer engagement is Reverse Engineering. That can be a difficult sell; the customer wants immediate progress toward their worthy goals. My challenge is to convince them that a few hours or days of taking a fresh look at their problem through a new lens will lead to faster and better outcomes. That’s easy when the customer has just had a shocking revelation and recognizes that they need to pivot; more challenging when they are comfortably unaware of the perils they face.
In our case, Reverse Engineering means to mine/analyze current strategy, product or project artifacts (documents, presentations, spreadsheets, plans) and stakeholder memories for the implicit decisions buried within them and map these decisions against one of our proven decision patterns. That mapping invariably exposes many important decisions that have been overlooked, conflict or where the customer team is divided on the way ahead.
We call our Reverse Engineering service a Decision Blitz. The great majority of this service happens offline; we cap it off with a face-to-face session or e-meeting in which the decision model is refined/validated, open decisions are prioritized and a plan to inform and accelerate these decisions is developed. With this Decision Baseline established, we move into Forward Engineering mode and start coaching our clients through the critical decisions that will shape their future success.
Part of our decision prioritization process includes considering the Decision Impact, the size of the negative impact that a bad choice might have on overall project success. Decision Impact can often be estimated in terms of “dollars at risk“, i.e. the difference in value created between the selection of a superior, innovative alternative and picking a “lemon” that requires significant rework when its shortcomings are exposed.
Regardless of the status of your new business launch, strategic initiative or product development project, I encourage you to invest in a Decision Blitz to put a second set of impartial eyes on your current plans. The cost/effort is minimal; the potential payoff is huge.