Summarizing Strategic Thinking

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).
  1. What is your starting point? What are your change management challenges?
  2. What data do you consider most important for your strategic thinking?
  3. What are the key concepts, theories, models, and methods for understanding strategy?
  4. What are the various lenses you can bring to strategy?
  5. How can you act to gather relevant information and to make decisions?
  6. Is your analysis granular enough to gain specific data to make decisions?
  7. How should you phrase your strategic alternatives and your strategic direction?
  8. How do you manage inevitable biases and internal political influences on decisions?
  9. Who should be at the table and how does each member perform a role in the process?
  10. 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?
  11. What are the internal and external processes for innovation?
External Conditions: What external conditions are we facing?
  1. What long-term trends might influence your business?
  2. What can you learn from the macro environments in which you do business?
  3. What is your competitive position?
  4. What can you learn from a strategic analysis of your industry or industries, the marketplaces, competitors, and other key players who influence your organization?
  5. Who are your core customers and what trends do you see for them? What are the customer’s purchasing criteria?
  6. Where will you be active; with how much emphasis? What are the boundaries?
  7. What are your key success factors?
Internal Conditions: What internal competencies do we have?
  1. What are your core products and services?
  2. What are your resources and capabilities (activities)?
  3. To what extent are these resources and capabilities rare, relevant, durable, and connected?
  4. To what extent do the resources and capabilities fit with the organization’s administrative history; structure, systems, culture, and management style?
  5. How can you enhance returns from your resources and capabilities?
  Focus: Where will we focus our attention?
  1. What do you want to achieve? What are your fundamental purpose; values; mandates; targets and objectives; why are you in business?
  2. Where are the growth opportunities: core, adjacencies, breakthroughs, white spaces, and blue oceans?
  3. How can you be different compared to those with whom you compete or cooperate for resources? What are your points of parity and difference?
  4. Will your strategy beat the market?
  5. What are your strategic imperatives and initiatives?
  6. Can you find places for shared value?
  7. What is your guiding principle to increase organizational value.
Implementation: How will we accomplish our focus?
  1. What can you achieve?
  2. What moves should you make to achieve your purpose?
  3. How can you mobilize, build momentum, and sustain change efforts?
  4. What will be your speed and sequence of the moves?
  5. What is your plan given the trade-offs in priorities, timing, and politics?
  6. How do you balance commitment, accountability, motivation, and flexibility?
  7. How will you obtain returns? What are your best business models?
  8. What measures will you use to know you are achieving your purpose?

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