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Sanity As A Management Strategy

        posted by , May 22, 2013

Think back to the last big mistake your organization made — what could have prevented it?

Occasional mistakes and failures are an inevitable part of business.

If you're a manager, you're probably highly focused on preventing these failures. Project management, performance management, change management, risk management, quality management and team management strategies are all focused on preventing failure.

So why do things still fail?

The answer is clear. Strategies, plans, designs and decisions are all shaped by politics and other factors that aren't always completely sane. A little sanity check once in a while does wonders for your business results.

Definition: Management Sanity Check

A sanity check is a back to basics review of strategies, plans, designs and decisions. It's usually conducted as a series of stakeholder meetings. Assumptions and constraints are temporarily dropped to ask the question — does this make any sense?

Why Are Sanity Checks Important?

Sanity checks are an effective way to identify flawed approaches before they become costly problems. Benefits may include:

  • Strategy Hardening
    Does your strategy make sense in both the short and long term? What are the global impacts of local strategies? Could this strategy fail?

  • Decision Validation
    Does this decision really solve your problems? What are the big picture impacts?

  • Plan Validation
    Does this plan have any hope of succeeding? Is there an easier/better way to do this?

  • Design Validation
    Is your design fit for purpose? Is there a better way?

  • Improving Your Team Culture
    What is our team doing right? What could we improve?

How To Perform A Sanity Check

A sanity check has several key elements:

  1. Sanity Checklists
    A sanity checklist is a validation tool that lists common areas of strategic or design failure. Develop sanity checklists from knowledge sources such as lessons learned documentation.

  2. Stakeholder Reviews
    Establish a management culture that requires peer reviews of significant strategies, plans and designs. Invite all relevant stakeholders. Set the expectation that anyone who doesn't attend forfeits their rights to input.

  3. Application of Principles
    Organizational, departmental and team principles can be used to validate sanity.

  4. Clear Authority & Responsibility
    Authority and responsibility for performing a sanity check is clearly assigned. A sanity check typically results in recommendations to senior management.

Next: 20+ Strategy Sanity Checks That Reveal Everything

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