The Beauty in the Rearview Mirror

strategic planning(Note to self: Arrive late to meetings and make an entrance – it’s your show!)

Sent: July 5, 10:30 p.m.

From: CEO

To: Executive Team

Subject: Unacceptable Results

I want to express my disgust at the results we’ve been having lately. I’m shocked that you have gone so far down from last quarter. We need some new plans, and I want to go back to what was working last quarter and last year. Enough of this new innovative stuff.

We’ll meet first thing (9:00) tomorrow morning, and each of you should have a plan that will work.

Your CEO

Remember, you are in charge and what you say goes. If someone wants to take off in a new, untested direction, why the hell should you go with them? It’s not their nuts on the table. Well, technically it’s not your nuts either, because it’s all from your trust fund, and there’s more where that came from…

But back to the point. The best ideas are always those that have worked in the past—there is nothing new to be learned from trying something new. So, drag out those old plans, put a new shine on them, and take credit for them all over again! You have plenty to choose from because, just between us, you have some pretty smart people working for you. Of course, all credit goes to you because we wouldn’t want anyone getting too uppity!

The real key to success is wash, rinse, and repeat. And if you get stuck in the spin cycle, all the better!

Take a look at a good quarter or year and see what it was you did that worked. Then drag that strategy out of the closet and run it again. If it was a promotion that went well, do it again! It won’t matter that you just did it and made it special so that customers who purchased will feel a little jilted now that you are running it again—you want all those who didn’t purchase it before! Remember, you can make anything look new again. Just look in the mirror and see how good you look now compared to last year!

Once you’ve gathered the team together and shamed them for their poor performance, listen to their ideas. Make sure you’ve already thought of a surefire winner from past successes, and summarily dismiss all their ideas and share yours as the one you’ve decided on. Even if it’s eerily similar to someone else’s on the team, be sure to note one key difference—even if you make it up—that makes yours superior. Keep in mind that leadership is all about you leading, so it needs to be your idea, your strategy, and your say-so. The team is just there to execute. The beauty of this plan is that you have a high likelihood of success and if you fail, it’s the team’s fault, based on their execution; therefore, once again, you are golden! One key element is that you tolerate no dissent whatsoever. If someone questions you, take them out immediately with a put-down so fierce that no one else will have the balls to question you. You’ll feel great about yourself, and the rest of the team will be awed by your strong leadership.

Remember, looking backward is really looking forward, again! (Note to self: Put that in my book as a brilliant quote.)


Looking in the rearview mirror for insights is a good thing. Only looking in the rearview mirror will cause a serious accident. Take the insights and build a better plan forward; don’t be afraid to innovate; and for God’s sake, listen to your people. They often do have the best ideas. The best approach to gaining insight from the past is to talk about what went well, what did not go well, and what you will do next time. If you don’t learn from past mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them. Get in the habit of doing a mini-debrief after every plan, implementation, project, initiative, or action. Not only will you get better each time, but you’ll also be teaching your team a great strategy for speed and learning.

To get your copy of “How (NOT) to Create a Winning Strategy” click here.