7 Key Questions to Stress Test Your Business Strategy

How do some companies consistently perform, even under the most difficult of circumstances, while others falter? Inspired after recently reading a McKinsey Quarterly newsletter, I thought I’d highlight the practicalities of testing strategies to ensure better management of the outcomes to experience.

Strategic laws of gravity

Raymond Gilmartin, a professor at Harvard Business School, likes to ask; “Does it violate any strategic laws of gravity?”

How realistic is your strategic plan? Have you measured the gap between your present state & what you want to achieve? Have you ever achieved such an aggressive goal before & thereby confident to leverage experience in guiding your team through what might look like an insurmountable challenge at first?

Metrics & Strategy

How do the resources you’ve allocated compare to the scope of the strategy you’ve devised? What are the intermediate measures you’re going to take in order to ensure you’re capable of making needed adjustments at the right time? Is your spending aligned with your expected outcomes? If you’re strategy is to be innovative are you spending enough on R&D? If you’re looking to gain market-share is the elephant slice of your spending targeting promoting your products & services?

Creating value

David Speiser, senior vice president for strategy at SAIC, a scientific, engineering, and technology applications company questions how a strategy drives financial shareholder value. Considering the size of your enterprise, are the desired outcomes significant enough in comparison with the size of your organization? Are you going for stretch goals?


How will you stand-out from the crowd as a consequence of successfully executing your strategy & reaching your set objectives? What’s within your control in becoming a differentiator? How big of a stretch is it & have you field tested (asked your clients) what they really need? Is this something that will undoubtedly put them in your corner?

The Hype Test

Can you confidently say that the insights and capabilities underlying your strategy are rooted in facts, existing resources & leveraging experience you already have access to? Is it more that just a great PowerPoint presentation? Where’s the proof? Have you done your homework to ensure there’s a large enough need for the product or service you want to deliver? If it’s a niche, is it a big enough niche that’s going to compensate your investment?

The journey

Gail Lumsden is group head of strategy and planning at SABMiller and focuses on the journey ahead and the various forks in the road. If it’s a product or service you’re producing, have you identified it’s respective lifecycle? What are the triggers you’re going to put into place to ensure that the market need you’re addressing is still as viable as when you set out on your journey? What is the engagement mechanism you’ve put into place to guarantee continual / periodic feedback into your organization? How can you be agile & make the necessary pivots to succeed?

Risk assessment

For every action there’s a reaction, it’s a law of physics. What problems & challenges could you bring to the surface as a reaction to your success or failure? How will your competitors react to your moves? How will you balance, and have you scenario planned, what will be the internal & external variables that your success or failure will trigger?

What’s your take?

I’m sure there are many more ways you can stress test your strategy before embarking on what could become a long & expensive journey. These 7 questions are the ones that I’ve seen as the most commonly missed. What others can you think of that might be just as important?

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