Strategic Abandonment – The Art of Letting it Go

Image showing abandonment old cart that has been rejected due to advancements in transport/technology
Source: | Photographer: Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz

We reject new ideas more easily than we reject old ones. Some of the most common reasons for not investing in a strategic change initiative are:

  1. It doesn’t align to strategy
  2. We can’t afford it
  3. It’s too risky
  4. The time isn’t right

Those are good reasons for deciding not to invest. Organisations need to allocate resources wisely.

If new projects take up 10% of resources, have you scrutinised the activities that make up the other 90% to ensure that they deliver as much value as the ideas you just rejected? Most organisations are doing old things in old ways that may no longer make sense.

People in any organisation are always attached to the obsolete – the things that should have worked but did not, the things that once were productive and no longer are.

Peter Drucker – renowned management writer and thinker, author of 39 books

What is strategic abandonment?

Strategic abandonment is an organisation’s conscious decision to end or divest from certain activities, products, projects, services, or initiatives. It’s a vital part of strategic management and can help organisations free up resources, reduce complexity, and focus on their core strengths and priorities.

How to identify strategic projects to abandon

Identifying projects to abandon isn’t that hard. Here is what to look for:

  • Projects that do not have a clear sponsor or champion
  • Projects that have been superseded by events
  • Projects where the business case no longer stacks up, e.g., revised cost exceeds benefits
  • Projects that do not have support of stakeholders
  • Projects that cannot show clear progress and look unlikely to do so
  • Projects that reflect a now abandoned strategy

How to identify operational activity to abandon

An operational function may no longer be needed. It may still be needed but could be done differently. Ways to identify operational activity that should be abandoned or replaced are:

  • Very low levels of activity. There may not be enough demand
  • Low levels of client satisfaction
  • High levels of employee dissatisfaction with the process or activity
  • The activity creates complex use cases that are expensive to support
  • Low levels of profitability
  • High levels of waste – value stream mapping is a great way to identify waste
  • External environment has changed dramatically

How to strategically let go

The first step in strategic abandonment is to recognise that your organisation might have to let go of some things. An external perspective can help. Initial steps can include:

Should you be letting go of things?

Phil Guerin, Consultant/Director, Hague Consulting Ltd. © Hague Consulting Ltd 2023

Follow on LinkedIn