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Eight (plus) Strategy Questions

STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT

Strategy starts with understanding and understanding starts with questions. If we get better answers by asking better questions – then surely we should spend some time identifying, and crafting, better questions.

I have asked lots of questions in my role as a strategic facilitator – and I keep finding new, and better, ones. To get strategic management in your business right – start by asking the following eight (plus a few sub-questions) strategy questions;

  1. Who is your primary customer?
    1. What do they (really, really) value? (and what is your theory of value creation?)
    2. Does everyone in the business know what they value? (and how do you know that?)
    3. How have you organised what you do to deliver maximum value to your customer? (and does this reflect your theory of value creation?)
    4. Are there areas of ‘wasted or diluted value’ In other words are you doing things or using resources on things that do not really add maximum value to your customer?
  2. How do your core values prioritise different stakeholders in the business (shareholders, employees and customers)?
    1. How do you ensure that the touch decisions you face are guided by your core values – what examples do you have of this?
    2. Do your core values recognise the (often competing) interests of all your stakeholders?
    3. Is everyone in the business committed to your core values? (and how do you know this?)
  3. What is your ‘difference that counts’?
    1. What are you doing differently – that actually makes a difference? (and how do you know)
    2. How sustainable is this difference? (and what are the current and future threats to this difference?)
    3. What are the most important activities and resources in creating, and sustaining, your ‘difference that counts’?
  4. What critical performance variables are you tracking?
    1. Do they truly tell you whether you have created (or added) value for your customer?
    2. How do they link to the way you create value? (and what is your ‘theory of value creation?)
    3. Do they tell you what ‘has happened’ or what is ‘going to happen’? (and which is more valuable for you?)
    4. How do your crate accountability for performance?
  5. What strategic boundaries have you set?
    1. Do these strategic boundaries compel/constrain/encourage the right behaviour in your people?
    2. Are these strategic boundaries clear in everyone’s mind/ is there a common understanding of what is and what is not off limits (and within limits)?
    3. What are some of the strategic initiatives that you will not support?
  6. How are you generating creative tension?
    1. How do you encourage/allow for innovation?
    2. How do you encourage/inculcate the right thinking in your people?
    3. Is your organisation as complex as it needs to be BUT as simple as it can be?
  7. How ‘strategic’ are your people?
    1. What is your theory of motivation? (and is it undergirded by the same values as your theory for value creation (question 1 (a) above))
    2. How are you creating shared responsibility for success? (and how do you reward/incentivise this?)
  8. What strategic uncertainties keep you awake at night?
    1. How do you focus everyone’s attention on these uncertainties?
    2. How do you allow/encourage/motivate everyone to be part of any changes that are necessary? (and what is your theory of change?)
    3. How do you encourage/require/compel dissemination of the right information at the right time in the right way? (so that you really know what is going on?)

Acknowledgement: Seven Strategy Questions: A simple approach for better execution (Robert Simons)

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