Category Archives: Strategy, Ambiguity, and Strong-Minded Thinking

Strategic thinking is a core competency for the strategic initiative leader

Critical Asking

A challenge of strategy execution is that visionary people (executives and managers) have visions, ideas, goals, and solutions; they need others to realize the benefits. Often, the tactical people react to the request with pushback: “That will never work. We … Continue reading

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Six Strategic Thinking Skills: Developing the Proactiveness Habit

Few argue that culture is a key factor in the execution of strategy. Culture has many definitions, and one way to understand it is that it is a set of thousands of individual habitual responses. They are also collective, and … Continue reading

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Strategy is Not Long-Range Planning, Vision, Mission, or Values

A strategic initiative is a response to performance gap. It’s purpose is to close it. A leader of a strategic initiative needs to watch out for the “fluff” of attractive artifacts like mission, vision, values, and long-range plans.
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Is it Possible to Have a Perfect Strategy?

There is a perfect strategy in the sense that you could design a strategy for a given moment in time that effectively addresses the core competitive challenge. Strategy as a crafted, designed response to a specific and important challenge. Perfection means it is entirely adequate for the situation and you would gain little benefit from further tweaking. You gain more benefits from bearing down on execution compared to polishing a presentation deck.
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Agile Thinking, Habits, and Strategic Initiative Leadership: Transcending the Buzz for Useful Insights

This article is a critique of, “agile thinking,” with examples provided for a strategic initiative at Corning: Agile Business Innovation.

In present use, agile thinking means to embrace the “agile values” declared by agile software evangelists, those values being things like flexibility, speed, customer responsiveness, change, and good engineering. Greg Githens explains that by recognizing that agilists are talking about values, we can then turn our attention to the appropriateness of the values to the situation. We can design an approach that best maximizes our chances of success. The core challenge for agilists is that they are saying that their values might be better than there audience’s values. They want to change habits, but often lose sight of whether changing habits is good for the business.

As a cognitive process, there are no practical differences between agile thinking and creative thinking. The article concludes by suggesting five questions for looking at habits.

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Coherence: It is Only a Good Plan (Strategy) If It Makes Good Sense

Coherence means that things make sense. In the context of strategy, it means that the committed resources, policies, and actions are consistent and coordinated. A plan is only a good plan if it makes good sense. Unfortunately, most organizations pursue multiple objectives that are unconnected with one another (and sometimes even conflict).They are anything but coherent! Insert the concept of coherence into your discussions. How? One way is to ask simple questions, “Does this make sense? Where are the gaps? Are there conflicting objectives?” Another way to encourage coherence is to activate the Chief Story Teller role. Imposing coherence and discipline on an organization is difficult and takes hard work by the strategic initiative leader.

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Scope Creep in Strategic Initiatives: How to Recognize It and Avoid It

Scope creep is a frequently-heard complaint. The word scope is ambiguous; experience shows that even highly experienced and trained professionals cannot agree on its meaning. The Includes-Excludes Table is a simple two-column table with the word “in” placed at the top of the left column and “out” at the top of the right column. It helps us to visualize scope creep as something that was determined to be “out” now has crept over the line to become “in.” The advice for the strategic initiative leader is straightforward: pay attention to the partitioning of in and out. Don’t let something that is out cross the line unless you understand the impacts on the governance of the program. Also, use preferred modifiers: Problem Scope, Product Scope, and Work Scope.
This process of describing the in and out, and making choices, encourages the strategist to think about their business model in a more complete and logical way. The Includes-Excludes Table can help you stay focused on root causes and core strategic problems. They key is to maintain a focus on the problem scope, and avoid the tendency to start designing solutions and implementing them.
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