Thursday, March 31, 2016

Consequence-based Strategy


Modern Businesses, especially established brands, get so caught up in the pressure of being competitive that they want to be agile and quick to respond to any situation in the public domain. So, they quite often end up not thinking beyond the usual brand communication, image management, etc. Or, they are so enamored by the feel of their own successes and the dominance of their brand that they tend to overlook simulating some basic ‘what-if scenarios’.

Consequently, even if there is some kind of Plan B for worst-case situations, there is a predisposition to hastily roll out the alternative plan to handle the situation in the misdirected sense of confidence of having a plan.

A case in point is the recent Apple v FBI imbroglio. Most readers might know about it, however, to encapsulate, FBI wanted Apple’s help to hack an iPhone belonging to a person of their interest. Apple declined, citing data security and customer privacy.

Granted that security and data privacy are paramount to a customer and that they are mandatory, if not differentiating, features in today’s connected world. But, if the executives at Apple had only thought through the scenario they could have turned this into a big win for them without losing any credibility, rather than being seen as stonewalling with customary justifications. It seems counter-intuitive, but how?

Let’s say that Apple agreed to help the FBI as a special case by providing know-how and resources to crack the phone to access the critical data. If the exercise didn’t succeed, Apple would have come out if this smelling of roses. It is like “hey, we helped the government, but the security on the phone is so good that even we couldn’t crack it”. Result – the government is thankful for the cooperation and iPhone users feel secure.

On the other hand, if they did manage to hack into the phone, Apple would still have come out if this smelling of roses. It is like “the data on the phone is so secure that it took experts with specific privileges, under special circumstances to crack it”. ”. Result – the government is happy for the help and iPhone users feel secure in the comfort that their phone cannot be randomly hacked.

Instead what has happened is that the federal agency has managed to access the phone data without Apple’s help. And Apple wants to know how they did it and could they share if a new vulnerability was found in iOS by the FBI and its partner!  Arguably, it has left users wondering about the security of their phone.

Now, this situation perhaps could have been avoided easily with some brainstorming and weighing the consequences of impending actions to build a strategy that can be advantageous to you in any event. Somewhat like negotiation 101 where the objective is to ensure that all parties walk off the table with a feeling of having won.

To summarize, the customer is king and you have to stick to your commitments. And you cannot be second-guessing your decisions. But, it is always important to think through consequences of critical actions before making decisions so as to ensure that you come out winning every single time.

Kall Ramanathan

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author are personal. Companies, agencies, persons or brands mentioned are solely for illustrative purposes and to provide perspective, and therefore bear no association with each other or the narrative in any way. Trademarks and names rest with the respective owners.
ValueStrat Consulting @ValueStrat helps businesses understand where they are currently and what they need to do to get where they want to go. For this, we provide essential strategic plans and approaches, called "Keys", to enable businesses to open up competencies and clear inefficiencies.

ValueStrat gets to the DNA of business - Desire, Need and Ability - to help you ask some critical questions such as discussed above. Check out for more

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