The 20 Percent Rule for Navigating Uncertainty and Chaos

In difficult, chaotic, and uncertain times, there is the need for a strong strategic vision and its strict implementation.  Sticking [...]

October 6 2011 by ChiefExecutive.net


In difficult, chaotic, and uncertain times, there is the need for a strong strategic vision and its strict implementation.  Sticking to your strategy when times are bad, and equally as importantly when times are good, is crucial.

And a new study explains extensive research on why some companies last and others fail, even under the same difficult conditions.  The findings were summarized this week in an article for Fortune.

Slow (or moderate) and steady wins the race.

This article gives a great example of how steady management can equal success.  It tells the story of two expeditions to the South Pole in 1911; one was successful and one was not.  And here, success was not only the difference between glory and failure, but also the difference between life and death.

The successful South Pole expedition had a consistent journey: when weather was nice or when the weather was bad, the expedition traveled between 15 and 20 miles a day.  They didn’t tire themselves out in good weather, just to be set back and vulnerable during the bad.

The results were the same with medical equipment company, Stryker, during CEO John Brown’s tenure from 1977 to 1998.  Brown’s target was 20% growth per year in a market where much higher growth was seen by competitors.  But, in focusing on 20 percent when things were good, as well as when things were bad, Stryker found longevity and success.

By being over-enthusiastic or over-doing it when times are easy, you will wear yourself out and be unable to withstand the pressure when times get difficult.

Read: Jim Collins: How to manage through chaos

Read: Strategy under uncertainty