Identifying constraints and developing contingencies

BY Australian Retailers Association
01 November 2018

Acknowledging constraints involved through the development of strategic plans, establishes a commitment to transparency and addresses issues prior to them becoming challenges.

Every action undertaken in a business or personal context has parameters that need to be understood before action can safely be taken. Constraints are effectively the parameters that form the rules under which the environment operates. They need to be understood and accepted to streamline action planning.

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Identify and acknowledge constraints

Within any strategic planning process there is a limited set of options. Prior to creating action plans to facilitate the achievement of objectives, it is important to do some contingency planning. Effective planning includes acknowledgement of the type of constraints that may inhibit a team’s achievement of their objectives.

These constraints may stem from variables within the team, the organisation, external business environment, the local community or target population. By identifying these potential constraints, it may be possible to embed strategies to allow for contingencies during your planning process. In this context a constraint is any element that may limit or restrict the achievement of objectives.

Consider contingencies

Once identified, not all constraints are necessarily impossible to resolve. Particularly when constraints are severely limiting, so much so that they have the potential to halt or prevent strategic objectives from being achieved it is important to consider whether contingencies may be possible. It is a matter of weighing the potential benefits of establishing contingencies against the cost and inconvenience to business of engaging them.

Clarify alternate approaches

For constraints that have viable contingencies it is helpful to clarify alternate approaches that will allow for strategic objectives to be achieved. This again can be a process that benefits from consultation with key stakeholders. The aim is to clearly identify and establish which contingencies will be prioritised for each constraint and document them to facilitate a swift response should the need for them arise. In some cases, contingencies will need to be adopted at short notice particularly when strategic activities are in progress, so it is beneficial to have already considered the ideal approach should any given challenge arise.


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Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit or call 1300 368 041.

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