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How to Avoid Being Blindsided

September 17, 2015

In football, being blindsided means you get run over by someone big and powerful.  Someone who hits you without you seeing them or being aware that it’s coming.  It hurts.  The same thing happens in business, but all year long, not just during the fall.  This blog contains a quick set of suggestions as to how to protect yourself.  Be careful before continuing, many people prefer denial and blaming, versus doing what it takes to protect their blind side.  If you’re one of them, this isn’t a good read.  For the rest of you, here we go, I’ll make this brief and to the point.

First of all what does being blindsided look like for you and me in business?  At the front end it often looks like:

  • Lagging revenue, increasing cost, shrinking market share, and uncertain marketing results,            
  • Slipping timelines, overshooting budgets, or 
  • Underperforming executives.

It culminates in outcomes that are nasty and painful.  Here’s a couple of headlines to anchor the impact of being blindsided:

If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that being blindsided is actually common.  In fact did you know that:

These results all call attention to the fact that something happens along the way to completing key initiatives that:

  1. Wasn’t expected (blind side), and
  2. Derailed the process and negatively impacted the results

Our research points to one predictable root cause to being blindsided by that “something” that’s so disruptive. 
It’s not complicated, you need to look no further than ASSUMPTIONS.

Every initiative embraces assumptions, in fact it turns out that every initiative incorporates a number of assumptions.  Unfortunately only a small percentage are accounted for, managed and validated.  The rest are either known, but not validated, tracked or sometime even communicated; or the assumptions are unconscious or unknown to the management team – e.g. they reside in your management team’s blind spot.

From our research, assumptions (yours and mine) fall into one of 4 buckets:

  1. Cost (how much time and money will it take and will be available)
  2. Fit (how accurately does the effort fit the strategy, the customer, a relevant value-add)
  3. Personnel (do we have the expertise, the commitment, the alignment, the availability of needed people resources)
  4. Change  Delta involved/invoked in reaching the outcome (estimating the power of habit and the extent of push-back)

Want to avoid being blindsided?  Of course you do – we all do. 

The key to avoiding being blind sided is… well here let me list a couple of steps (but you realize it’s more than I can describe here):

  1. Surface your assumptions.  Get them out on the table and figure out how you can validate whether they’re real or not… throughout the life cycle of your key initiatives.  That’s right you keep checking, it’s not a one-time process.
  2. Get someone you trust from the outside into help you shrink your blind spots, so you don’t have assumptions residing in there just waiting to blindside you.AssumptionTools

By the way there’s a way to not only surface assumptions, but actually structure your process for managing assumptions and rate the amount or level of risk they present to the overall success of your key initiatives.  We set that all up in ManagePro, and in fact may be one of your highest value usages of ManagePro.

Bottom Line:

Don’t get blindsided, avoid the whole nasty experience by getting really rigorous about managing your assumptions with outside help to shrink your blind spot.  BTW, we’re really good at being your outside resource.  Check out www.executivecopilots.com and give us a call at 707 487-3000.



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