Joseph Slawek – An equation to help you determine if your next big plan will succeed

Will the strategy succeed? Is this the right move at the right time? I know we CEOs have all spent many nights pondering these questions and weighing the possible outcomes. Overall, it can
be a complex endeavor.

There are a variety of variables and unique circumstances that come into play for any business, but here’s a simple equation that can be a handy part of your decision-making process when assessing the probability of success for a strategy:

Confidence in our people x confidence in our strategy x the level of coordinated activity = our probability of success

The equation’s value rests on your ability to be honest. Your evaluations need to be fair and realistic to provide the best data. If you aren’t fully confident in an area, that’s OK. It’s about making the best decisions for your company and your people — and that requires honesty.

Let’s look at each part of the equation:


Ask: What is my level of confidence in their ability to successfully execute the strategy?

Honestly assess: While we all would like to automatically say we have 100 percent confidence in everyone at every instance, in reality, the percentage may be lower for a number of reasons.

Perhaps the responsible leader is new and relatively inexperienced. Or maybe the team already has a full strategic workload with little excess capacity to engage in a new strategy.


Ask: What is my level of confidence in the strategy?

Honestly assess: Not all strategies are created equal. The origins and the completeness of a strategy will determine the level of confidence in the strategy itself. Consider the process and if it was created by the boss, visionaries or tacticians? Is it proactive or reactive?


Ask: What is my confidence in the level of coordinated activity associated with the strategy? 

Honestly assess: All too often, great strategies and great people are handcuffed by the lack of coordinated activities. Before you can execute a strategy well, you may need to stop doing something else to create the strategic bandwidth to embrace the level of coordinated activity necessary for strategic success.

Now, let’s take a look at an example:

People: Let’s say you have a new leader and a fairly busy group. You decide your confidence in your people under these circumstances is at 90 percent.

Strategy: You have a great go-to-market strategy created by a visionary process. The only shortfall is the financials rely heavily on estimates, so your confidence is at 90 percent.

Activity: You believe the activity level is very high, but it lacks a certain level of management coordination, slowing success. It could be something as simple as an uncoordinated order entry process. Under these circumstances, let’s assess your level of confidence at 90 percent.

So here we go — what is our probability of success? At first blush, it looks like a 90 percent average. That’s an A- or a B+. Sounds good, right?

The reality is different, and here’s what you need to remember: Shortcomings, however small, tend to multiply quickly in business. This becomes clear when we work our equation: 90 percent x 90 percent x 90 percent = 72.9 percent. The probability of success is actually a very low C-. 

We have to make the best decisions we can for our people, and this equation can help us evaluate our circumstances and chart our course.

Joseph James Slawek is the founder, chairman and CEO of FONA International, a full-service flavor company serving some of the largest food, beverage, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical companies in the world. For more information, visit