93% of Successful Companies Abandon Their Original Strategy

I spent an hour discussing strategy with a group of 24 leaders. What I know is that the best ideas are yet to emerge.

If you succeed, you most likely will let go of your original strategy.



93% of all companies that ultimately become successful had to abandon their original strategy because it was not viable. Amar Bhide. (In, “How Will You Measure Your Life,” by Clayton Christensen.)


Mintzberg on emergent strategy:

Strategy emerges over time as intentions collide with and accommodate a changing reality.

Emergent strategy is a a realized pattern that was not expressly intended in the original planning of strategy.

Deliberate strategies provide the organization with a sense of purposeful direction. Emergent strategy implies that organizations are learning what really works.


Viagra was originally intended as high-blood pressure medication.

Nyquil made people sleepy. New strategy: Nighttime cold medicine.

Katy Perry, formerly Katy Hudson, failed as a Christian singer.

Sam Walton decided to build his second store in a small town near his first one because his wife didn’t want him to be away from home. It was the birth of the largest company in the world. (Fortune’s list of top companies in 2016 based on revenue.)

4 principles of emergent strategy:

#1. It’s dangerous to stick to a plan that isn’t working as expected.

#2. Determination is important. Improvisation – stumbling forward – is more important.

#3. Aggressively try. Intentionally learn. Humbly adapt.

#4. Stay humble. Don’t fall in love with your ideas. “It’s self-conceit to think you can figure out in advance and tell everyone in your company what to do. Instead, you need to build an environment where your customers, where your users, where your employees are figuring out what the business should be.” Scott Cook (video link), founder of Intuit.

How might leaders navigate setting strategy and being agile?