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The process to establish the organisational Business Strategy with the leadership team in a 3 day process.

Day 1: Preparation

Have meetings with the people who are involved in the strategy workshop but potentially also others who may not be.

  • Ask the most senior people for relevant people to speak to, it could be 10-15 people
    • Chose people that have sth to say. (can be interesting to talk to secretaries).
    • Chose enough people, all of the management workshop.
    • Goal to understand the underlying structure – that’s how to chose people
  • Have them schedule 1:1 meeting with everyone for 15-20 min max.
  • Conversations:
    • Start with nothing and picture.
    • → I want them to tell me what they wanna share.
    • “How is it going? What do you do?” (Dont structure questions!!)
    • 1 line setup: “Over the next few days I’m doing some strategic planning with the team. I want to get a chance to talk to people to prepare myself before I go into the planning meeting. Thanks for speaking (meeting) with me.”
    • Doing a DIS (details into shape) translation = executive summary back to them.
    • Individual movies of the conversations become additive and merge into one movie. Discrepancies might pop up, and can be tested with other people.

Outcome: Understanding of what’s going on in the organisation. Structural conclusion. Meet with CEO / senior management to provide structural analysis.

Day 2: First Day of Workshop

Here the consultant already knows a lot from the preparatory conversations and does not start with nothing anymore. Total work time max 7 hours (plus breaks) for first and second day of the workshop as it is rigorous thinking, and the team shall be sharp and fresh. Context about structural dynamics is only required if there is a lot of conflict, then education is needed.

This day is about defining the business strategy and answering the following questions. It’s not uncommon to spend a majority on the the definition of the offer. Typically the purpose doesn’t come in here, usually the organisation got that clear already. Though if there is e.g. an existential crisis then that needs to be addressed.

11 Questions for clarity:

  1. What is our offering?
    • The impact of the product for your client. More than features & benefits. What does it provide to our clients?
    • Spend up to half a day on this question with the management.
  2. Who are our customers?
    • People making the decisions wether to buy or not.
  3. What do they want?
    • Not what they need.
    • The customers motivation, what they are motivated to do.
    • They might have different and competing motivations, we must know them all.
    • What causes them to say yes or no to your offer?
  4. What do we want?
    • Don’t try to be all things to all people. To keep us focused and not get distracted.
    • What types of clients do we (not) want?
    • What kind of work do we want to do?
    • Not just going into the clients head, otherwise we might violate sth that is important to us.
  5. What is the match between our offer?
    • Key to strategy: Make your client an offer they can’t refuse.
      • Steve Jobs: Killer products bring killer profits. Anticipated what the market wanted, before the market wanted it. What will motivate the customer to say yes in the future?
    • Challenge: Can you make the offer even better?
    • The match is the essential question in the strategy development.
    • If you have no match – you have no business. You need to understand your offer and what the market wants or is motivated to say yes. Need assessments are a waste of time. Clients always do what they are motivated to do. If we wer them, why would we say yes?
  6. How do they know about us?
    • Branding: Credibility that the company has with the market.
      • Do they recognize us / our name? Brand = relationship we establish with our customer. That brings an awareness to say yes to buying our product or service.
      • How one feels what the company is.
      • You cant do branding without foundational business.
      • A) Build the match → B) Relationship that the match produces
    • Marketing: Good marketing tells the story of the match! How do we tell the story of the match?
      • Can we convey the match to them – our story needs to highlight what they want and what we have = match. So that clients we want to work with are prepared to say yes.
      • The better you tell your story, the more they know about the match the lower the sales burden. The worse the match (=inadequate marketing), the higher the sales burden.
      • Wrong: Conflict manipulation.
        • Start with Conflict → Stress → Action: Motivation to reduce Conflict
        • Short shelf life: Charity show photo about bad situation > send money > feel better > next time feel less motivated to send money, because you already did.
        • Attention span is not short! Short term interest only because of problem driven focus > what if they dont!
      • Right: Better approach to marketing & sales >> Outcome / vision! Thats where you are, thats where we go! You never want to lie to your market!! >> LTV of the client!! Outcome sales > problem sales
  7. How do they obtain our offering? Distribution
    • E.g. storefront, online shop and we ship out, superior shop place in a chain, virtual via Zoom, physical visit.
  8. What is the current market?
    • May be more narrow, more broad.
    • Its an opportunity to rethink the market we are serving
  9. What is the future market?
    • How is it changing?
    • Could you shape the future market? If so, how?
    • Can we be a force help establish what the future market will become?
  10. How will our offerings change?
    • E.g. Covid – restaurants closed, those that survived adapted, changed to pick up & convenience, also pop up restaurants outside.
  11. Where are we going?
    • Where are we visioning to be in the next 3-5 years?
    • Whats our sense of the future? In 10-20 years? Can we anticipate what tomorrow will look like and position us well for that future?
    • Technology: What we invest in / what we develop? Steve Jobs: Technological Visionary.
    • Might inform our 1-2 year goals to be prepared.
    • E.g. generational business, could mean to include the owners retirement plans.
    • Could incorporate question 10) change of offering.

Outcome: The strategy becomes clear. It might not yet be clear to the management, but only to the consultant. The consultant should have an expanded picture of the organisation, not necessarily worded yet. Usually structural conflicts, if present, become obvious. Sometimes a high level summary is already presented to the leader. In that case he can correct any misunderstandings or have the comfort of understanding going into the next day.

Note: Everybody in the company should know the answers to those questions! The more clear this is the higher the alignment.

Day 3: Second Day of Workshop

Now it’s time for the consultant to mirror back and describe the business strategy to the whole team: This is how the business works and this is the strategy. A consultant will understand it better than they do. Afterwards everybody needs to understand it. Then it’s about defining goals and capture them in a Structural Tension Master Chart.

  1. Outcome / Goal: Measurable and time specific. Usually 1-2 year timeframe.
    • Don’t overstretch the goals to manipulate you into higher goals. Better to accomplish what you want, create momentum by achieving what you set out to achieve.
  2. Current Reality: Where are you in regards to your goals.
  3. Action Steps: Given our goals and current reality what do we need to do?
    • Action steps are high level.
    • Last 2 hours: Department heads take over an action step from the Master Chart and zoom into secondary level chart and fill in the details through specific actions steps. (action step in the Master Chart becomes the goal with further action steps).

Outcome: A lot of clarity. Major organisational principle.

Follow-up for 6+ Months

For the consultant it’s now easy to check in regularly once a week with senior executive team to verify action steps and due dates. Sometimes extra support and coaching with senior people is required to teach them how to manage the structural tension charts as they don’t have the skills.

Outcome: Change in underlying structure