Developing a Strategy? Read This First


You’re in charge of ‘developing a strategy’.  Perhaps you’re a General Manager, where developing and delivering strategy (what work, why that, and why us) is the key part of the job.  Or maybe you’ve been assigned the task because you’ve put your hand up, or you’re an agitator, or someone wants to see what you can do.  Or perhaps you’ve been asked to bring together the ubiquitous ‘cross-functional team’.

So what do you do?


Strategies are developed by convening gatherings of people who want to be there, then having real conversations about possible futures.

They’re not developed by working through a process of identifying the current situation, by doing a SWOT, PESTL….whatever.  These things might be useful to identify things to talk about, but they come at a cost, which is the implication that the process will reveal the strategy.

It won’t, and here’s why.

Real strategy, as in strategy that actually happens, is created by people imagining what might be possible, then making the choice to create a new future.  

Notice ‘people’.  Not ‘person’.  I’m presuming there will be others involved in this strategy of yours.  So if you’re in charge of the strategy, then the best thing you can do is to invite anyone who might be interested in creating a new future in the area you’re in to a gathering, then put the following questions on the table (I adapted these from the work of Peter Block) :

  • What meaning do you get from your work right now?
  • What’s happening out there that matters to you and why?
  • What’s the crossroads the area currently finds itself?
  • What is the possibility you would like to create?
  • What are your doubts and concerns?

These questions probably annoy you.  They probably come into the category of derisory words like ‘touchy feely’, ‘warm and fuzzy’, ‘talkfest’ and all the others we use to avoid the anxiety of wondering about what the hell we’re actually doing. 

But here’s the thing….not answering them is the reason strategy doesn’t happen.  Because the question is rarely ‘how do we do it’.  If an organisation focused single-mindedly on one project it would deliver it.  So the question can’t be ‘how’.  It’s ‘do we want to?’

Expressing your answers to these questions, then listening to the answers of others is at the bottom of what creates the things we’re all wanting from our organisations – commitment, ownership, accountability, innovation.   Get this in place, then the ‘how’ to deliver the strategy unfolds naturally – the best org design for the work, the systems we need in place, what capability….it all comes from the commitment toward creating that future.

And as for ‘change’…..well you don’t need to change manage people who decided on the change! 

So….to develop a strategy….convene.  Ask real questions.  Listen to real answers.  Don’t ask ‘how’ as your first question, because we can only answer how when we know that we want to.


Comments are closed.