"When Will the Strategy Work Be Done?" (Free)
Updated: Aug 15, 2021
This question has become a pet peeve for me. It is especially common during the pandemic. There is so much unpredictability around, that the teams are overwhelmed with changes in direction; draining their life force.
“When will strategy work be done?”, is analogous to asking, “When will the people of the world be done eating and feel full?”. Short answer is, “never and always”. Long answer is a frigging Schrodinger’s cat — it is both dead and alive at the same time!
Allow me to elaborate: People of the world will be hungry today. Some of them will eat and feel full (making EVERYONE in the world feel full is a bigger problem for another day — let’s stay focused!). Then, these people will be hungry again between the meal-times. They will cook/ buy a meal with available resources to satisfy their hunger, and on and on they go...
Strategy work is the same. It is NOT a one-time deliverable that is completed once, for all eternity.
Strategy must iteratively change to ensure that all available resources remain aligned towards a feasible success-definition.
Strategy is a set of key guidelines and decisions that help define success. Then, they are constantly adjusted as the team makes progress. The goal of strategy is to keep everyone aligned towards a feasible objective. This may imply constantly refining the success-definition in the context of that objective.
In our analogy, it means perhaps starting by providing dinner-time meals, with ingredients currently available, to feed some percentage of the world’s population. Then, expanding the objective to include additional age-groups, while simultaneously working to identify how the future meals will be developed based on the needs of each specific age group. What specific recipes will make best use of those resources and so on. Iterate upon this and theoretically, you can feed the world with some careful decisions.
When I hear this question, I pay special attention to it because it is deeply concerning. It indicates presence of the following:
The team is stuck in a task-based mindset.
Criticality has become the focus instead of the impact. A.K.A the teams are eager to do something right now, instead of working out what actions will drive most value right now.
Strategy work is a means to a specific ‘end’, where the ‘end’ may be understood differently across the team.
Context is missing.
In this situation, there is a more specific set of questions that can help the teams get back on track:
What is the specific objective — short vs long term?
What specific impact is desired from the objective— short vs long term?
What do we accept as the truth today? A.K.A identify assumptions widely accepted as the truth, that are still negotiable.
What specific decisions and guidelines will help us move forward towards the objective?
Can we define a set of iterative small-wins, bringing us closer to the long term objective? Bonus follow-up: how are we tracking the value from the small-wins?
Next time you find yourself asking that question while poking the Schrodinger’s cat with a stick, try these instead and let me know how it goes!
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