Different strategies face different uncertainties. Strategy implementation experience a landscape of heterogeneous risk factors both internal and external to the company. At the MITsdm Sympposium 2018 we presented the following research, which is based on empirical findings from 25 interviews with strategy professionals about major sources of uncertainty that affect strategy implementation, structured in a sense-making framework. A combination of uncertainties with a distinguishable “uncertainty profile” will affect a company’s strategy. Our interviews have identified the categories Execution, Objectives, and Feasibility as major sources of uncertainty regarding effective strategy work. Each category have an internal and external dimension and sub-levels. Figure 1 shows these three categories of uncertainties and their internal and external dimensions.
By assigning a property of either low or high to each of the three sources of uncertainty defined in the sense-making framework, we identified eight strategy uncertainty profiles. We call this three dimensional model, the strategy uncertainty cube, which is used to identify the levels of uncertainty related to a strategy.
The approach for dealing with uncertainty profiles is highly dependent on the type of strategy. While strategies with quantifiable objectives have low uncertainty in all sources, fuzzy strategies with blurry objectives e.g. product development and digitalization will have high degrees of uncertainty in all categories. The less we know about future customer needs, market trends, and our capabilities, the more challenging it becomes to define a strategy objective, leading to increased uncertainty in its execution.