Over the last few months, I’ve been outlining my approach to strategic thinking. One way to summarize this approach is to list a set of questions you can ask of your organization about internal analyses, external analyses, gaining focus, and quality implementation- the four criteria for an effective strategy. I’ve added a fifth area, questions about how the organization perceives and goes about strategic thinking. Enjoy.
[Excuse the somewhat cynical view of management in the picture].
Questions to Stimulate Strategic Thinking
Analytical, Process Skills for Content (how you do strategic thinking).
- What is your starting point? What are your change management challenges?
- What data do you consider most important for your strategic thinking?
- What are the key concepts, theories, models, and methods for understanding strategy?
- What are the various lenses you can bring to strategy?
- How can you act to gather relevant information and to make decisions?
- Is your analysis granular enough to gain specific data to make decisions?
- How should you phrase your strategic alternatives and your strategic direction?
- How do you manage inevitable biases and internal political influences on decisions?
- Who should be at the table and how does each member perform a role in the process?
- How does one behave to gain a sense of perspective, urgency to act, to make changes and to convince others that changes are organizationally appropriate?
- What are the internal and external processes for innovation?
External Conditions: What external conditions are we facing?
- What long-term trends might influence your business?
- What can you learn from the macro environments in which you do business?
- What is your competitive position?
- What can you learn from a strategic analysis of your industry or industries, the marketplaces, competitors, and other key players who influence your organization?
- Who are your core customers and what trends do you see for them? What are the customer’s purchasing criteria?
- Where will you be active; with how much emphasis? What are the boundaries?
- What are your key success factors?
Internal Conditions: What internal competencies do we have?
- What are your core products and services?
- What are your resources and capabilities (activities)?
- To what extent are these resources and capabilities rare, relevant, durable, and connected?
- To what extent do the resources and capabilities fit with the organization’s administrative history; structure, systems, culture, and management style?
- How can you enhance returns from your resources and capabilities?
Focus: Where will we focus our attention?
- What do you want to achieve? What are your fundamental purpose; values; mandates; targets and objectives; why are you in business?
- Where are the growth opportunities: core, adjacencies, breakthroughs, white spaces, and blue oceans?
- How can you be different compared to those with whom you compete or cooperate for resources? What are your points of parity and difference?
- Will your strategy beat the market?
- What are your strategic imperatives and initiatives?
- Can you find places for shared value?
- What is your guiding principle to increase organizational value.
Implementation: How will we accomplish our focus?
- What can you achieve?
- What moves should you make to achieve your purpose?
- How can you mobilize, build momentum, and sustain change efforts?
- What will be your speed and sequence of the moves?
- What is your plan given the trade-offs in priorities, timing, and politics?
- How do you balance commitment, accountability, motivation, and flexibility?
- How will you obtain returns? What are your best business models?
- What measures will you use to know you are achieving your purpose?