What is a No Regrets policy?

huge complex of motorway junctions, to support blog on knowing which way to go in business


We meet regularly to review client responses to questions we ask. It’s one way of being able to form aggregate views of companies and markets that aren’t available to anybody else – even the deep web. When we talk to project personnel, we gather perspectives that are always (literally always) a surprise to the company.

We were talking in the office this morning, and a couple of thoughts led to an interesting conversation, which is that lots of companies are adopting a No Regrets policy. You’ll see the term used more and more in the press and media as time goes on.

‘No Regrets’ policies are management’s way of trying to anticipate every possible scenario that could play out in their market.

In the UK, we have macro factors like Brexit coming our way, and other countries have their own issues: USA, Russia, Spain, Germany… There’s also the problem of not really knowing enough to have confidence in what emerging technology might do to us, to our businesses, to our markets, and to how consumers behave. And, like it or not, consumer behaviour will change.

So, companies are putting together scenarios to try and paint a picture of what their future markets might look like.

One company we know has fifteen (count them, 15) active scenarios in play. Fifteen scenarios constantly being updated and reviewed to make sure that they know as much as possible about what might happen in any given circumstance.

Now, that’s all great. We know there are companies behaving in this way, but what we’re not seeing is a huge amount of definite planning derived from those scenario views.

Lots of data gathering, lots of insight analysis, lots of stats being generated and lots of forecast modelling. We’re not seeing very much proactive strategy development based on this output.

Sure, companies with innovation functions are still scouting for great ideas and buying in concepts. Are the two activities joined up? The evidence suggests not always.

And of course, we would also say that scenarios do not equal strategy.

Management with a fiduciary responsibility is duty bound to act on the basis of evidence. Taking a punt isn’t done lightly and there is no evidence for what hasn’t happened yet. It’s all conjecture.

But waiting and waiting isn’t an option either. There are lots of good reasons for declaring a strategy. One of them is that the business now knows what is expected of it. Individuals start to get interested in the over-arching direction, and intangible benefits begin to be enjoyed.

So, accepting that we can’t know the future, the most viable option is to influence it and drive towards our own targeted outcome. If that needs to change, so be it. Let’s change when we have a reason to but, in the meantime, let’s do something.

If this is keeping you awake at night, don’t wait. Let’s talk.