Google “strategy” and you’ll find books, blogs, podcasts, videos, cartoons, etc. (I’ve consumed more on the topic than I’d like admit.) At the risk of writing a “me too” post, here are some of my thoughts on strategy.
Strategy can easily become lofty aspirations matched with a lot of homework. For me, I define strategy as intention with a plan, ideally with some sanity check to evaluate the two. The scope, complexity, timeframe, and number of people involved can vary, but I think it helps to remember these essentials.
So, my overall approach is:
- Establish Goals
- Identify the Status Quo and the Gap
- Iterate on a plan from current state to goals (the bridge)
- Consider Blindspots
- Daily Strategy Standup (read this if nothing else)
While this is a big topic, the essentials are:
- Why are you doing this?
- Is it worth the effort? What is the “payoff” (for all stakeholders)?
- What do we need vs. want vs. nice to have?
Status Quo: What is the Gap?
Identify and understand your starting point. Ultimately, I am trying to understand the gap between the status quo and where I want to be. In simple situations there are only a few metaphorical speed bumps in the way; in others there is the Grand Canyon.
I find it helpful to think it terms of a gap, i.e. “what are we missing?”; it makes it easier to identify and enumerate needs and challenges.
Iteration: The Bridge
How might we bridge the gap between where we are and where we need to be?
I’ll draft an actionable plan that starts to fill in the gap. Baby steps that I can implement are far better than ambitious ideas that need lots of research and planning.
Do a bit of work, evaluate and tweak. Use your goals as a “north star” and fill in the missing pieces towards your goals. Or you may discover you should revise your goals (though that is its own post).
I like to combine risks and constraints into a general bucket of blindspots. You can only anticipate so much; there are always unknowns, so framing such dangers as blindspots helps me. It also encourages me to be more creative in imagining what may undermine or threaten my efforts.
As with the classic Agile daily standup, I like to have a daily Strategy Standup. Whether alone or with a team, I ask three questions every day:
- What do we need?
- What are we missing?
- How might we bridge the gap between the two?
This 15 minute sanity check has proven very useful to me.
For me, strategy can too easily become ambitious planning, disconnected from tangible and actionable efforts. The approach I’ve described helps me balance intention, focus and adaptation.