Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

On the Paradox Consistency vs. Pivot

One of the more stubborn problems in building a business is the paradox of consistency vs. the pivot.

Consider this: 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. But too often people get bored with consistency and drop a working strategy long before the market understands it.

And on the other hand, there’s the brick wall. Maybe it’s the futility of trying to implement a flawed strategy. Maybe it was a good strategy but depended on assumptions that changed.

And there’s the problem: is it time to pivot? Or has a good plan been poorly executed? Or has a good plan been well executed and simply needs more time?

One good way to deal with it is focusing on the assumptions. Identify the key assumptions and whether or not they’ve changed. When assumptions have changed there is no virtue whatsoever in sticking to the plan you built on top of them. Use your common sense. Were you wrong about the whole thing, or just about timing? Has something else happened, like market problems or disruptive technology, or competition, to change your basic assumptions?

As a business planner, I’ve always disliked “because that’s the plan” thinking. Plan should be fluid and flexible. Plans should be reviewed and revised. Sticking with the plan thinking explains in part why some business experts question the value of the business plan. That’s sloppy thinking, in my opinion, confusing the value of the planning with the mistake of implementing a plan without change or review, just because it’s the plan.

Do not revise your plan glibly. Remember that some of the best strategies take longer to implement. Remember also that you’re living with it every day; it is naturally going to seem old to you, and boring, and sometimes it just takes longer to develop.

But don’t stick to your plan either. That in itself isn’t a virtue.

That’s why they put people in charge, instead of formulas, algorithms, or cliches.

Written by Tim Berry

user Tim Berry

Tim is the founder of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, the co-founder of Borland International, and the official business planning coach at Entrepreneur.com. He has been called the "Obi-wan Kenobe of business planning" and "The Father of Business Planning." He is a serial author of books and software on business planning.

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Comments

One thought on “On the Paradox Consistency vs. Pivot”

  1. Reid Henrichs says:

    Great blog – consistently promotes trust – you either believe in yourself or you don’t. By the way big fan of Borlands C and C++ compliers; used them in the ninties, best regards, Reid Henrichs, President of OPC Lasers LLC.