How to outline a strategy for an organization by answering five questions.

The problem with the word strategy is that there are many different ways to use the word and it conjures up different things for different people in different contexts. See for example the key Questions on Strategy addressed in the Master of Science in Organization Development class on Organization Analysis and Strategy at American University in Washington, DC. 

When asked “What is your strategy?” you might want to ask in reply “for what?” because every organization has many strategies.  There is a strategy for selling, delivery, product management, product development, recruiting, people development, growth, and so on. Each strategy addresses how things are done now and how they will change to achieve a certain envisioned future.

It helps to answer the following questions when laying out your organization’s strategy:
  • What problem do you solve for whom, how?  This gets at the three dimensions of any organization: 
    • Market the organization serves, 
    • Problem that market has, and 
    • Solution the organization provides the market to solve the problem.
  • How do you do what you do? That is, how do you convince decision-makers in the market to buy your solution and how do you develop, deliver, and service (i.e., do what the organization does) that solution? The principal systems of a business are its selling system and its doing” system…the third system is the system it uses to grow.  Organizations constantly develop and evolve their systems to: 
    • do, 
    • sell, and 
    • grow.
  • How well do you do the above compared to:
    • how others do it, 
    • how you used to do it, and 
    • how you said you would do it? 

i.e., industry benchmarks, historical benchmarks, and benchmark to plan.

  • How do you know?  That is, what metrics do you use to monitor performance of the do, sell, and grow systems?
  • What is most important to change next?  That is, how does your organization need to evolve from where it is now to some specific future state for what specific reasons and in what specific way?  Strategic initiatives tend to fall into three flavors: those that change 
    • Systems; those that change 
    • Processes; and those that change the 
    • Organization and the people in it and how they think and behave.
Well-run organizations answer the above questions in their annual strategic plan for the organization as a whole and for every significant operating unit.  In so doing they describe their organizations strategy to win the game they are playing. 

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