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Strategy is a fuzzy terms that means different things to different people. Sometimes it gets confused with analysis. This includes everything from market size to technical assessments to financial prognosis.
On the other hand, strategy gets conflated with planning. You’ve probably witnessed annual strategy retreats in your organization, where leaders spend days forging plans that become quickly obsolete.
Analysis and planning, while necessary inputs and outputs to strategy, are not the core of strategy. You can’t analyze your way to strategy. And detailed roadmaps don’t provide the rationale for the activity they organize. Strategy does.
The core of strategy, then, lies between the two. It’s about devising a way you believe you’ll best overcome challenges to reach a desired position.
I developed the strategy blueprint as a tool to visualize the central logic of strategy. It’s now available right inside of MURAL from the Frameworks tab.
The elements in the strategy blueprint are inspired from Henry Mintzberg’s five Ps of strategy from his book Strategy Safari, combined with Roger Martin and A.G. Lafley’s five questions of strategy in their recent book Playing To Win.
Each element (from the column on the right) is given a box in the blueprint.
Note that building strategy is a creative endeavor and a group activity. The strategy blueprint allows you to explore options as a team. Try alternatives, cross items off, rework ideas, and start over again. Design your strategy and get agreement on it.
Taking a team through the Strategy Blueprinting exercise is a great activity to do digitally in MURAL.
Set up a conference call and invite your team to a meeting. You can typically go through the strategy canvas in about 2-3 hours. A team of about 3-8 is best. It’s possible to hold a session with more than 8 people, but harder to let everyone be heard. You might be best splitting a large group into smaller, independent sessions.
Place the strategy blueprint in the center of a mural. The default size allows for about 6-10 sticky notes per area. If you have a large group, you might want to make the framework larger. (Do this in advance to avoid re-sizing sticky notes on the framework later). Then lock the framework down.
For each of the six areas of the Blueprint, create an area for creative brainstorming to generate ideas and team exercises to help understand and prioritize the best ideas. These areas will circle the Blueprint in the middle. Below are my recommendations:
This exercise quickly gets insight from your team about the challenges and opportunities you face. It’s based on the metaphor of a sailboat: if your initiative were a sailboat, what’s holding it back (anchors)? What would make it go faster (wind)? You’ll need between 30-60 minutes for this exercise.
The Sailboat exercise is based on the Speedboat game in Luke Hohmann’s book, Innovation Games. Read more about it online here.
This exercise helps the team reflect on what’s truly important. You’ll need about 30-60 minutes to complete.
The principle of method cards is simple: many projects and efforts have recurring steps. Don’t recreate them each time. Instead, use cards to focus the discussion on the project and be confident you won’t leave anything out. This exercise takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Dave Clure proposed a simple framework for grouping business metrics into 5 categories:
The acronym for these categories is AARRR, hence “pirate” metrics. It will take about 30 minutes to complete this exercise. The steps are very simple:
Benchmark current metrics for each of the primary metrics you agree on as a group. These form the “outcomes” section of the Strategy Blueprint.
5. Who Do You Want Your Customers To Become?
This technique is based on a single question: who do we want our customers to become? The aim is to look beyond a specific offering or how much profit you’ll make. Instead, explore the impact of your service on customers. How will you change their lives?
For example, George Eastman didn’t just invent an affordable, easy-to-use automatic camera at the end of the 19th century; he created photographers. His innovation allowed everyone to do something only trained professionals could previously do.
Here’s another example: Google is not just a sophisticated search algorithm, it lets everyone become expert researchers. Or consider eBay. The popular trading platform has created a new breed of entrepreneurs.
This exercise takes about 30 minutes to complete.
You can access the full template with these exercises below. Just click to open the template:
Strategy Blueprint Template by Jim Kalbach
Open to create a mural from this template in your team. Powered by MURAL