Ten strategic questions you need to ask

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Booz & Co’s Ken Favaro (2013) wrote recently that planning questions needed to be distinguished from strategic questions; in other words, that a hierarchy of objectives, and corresponding measures and initiatives, on the one hand shouldn’t be confused with fundamental questions that go to where an organisation competes and how it wins there (Martin 2014). There is a rich literature imploring managers not to confuse strategy and planning, as if they were at odds. We have built strategic questions into the strategy and planning projects we run with clients for nearly two decades. We offer the following ‘top ten list’ of strategic questions, inspired by Chris Bradley and colleagues (2012), Roger Martin (2014), Ken Favaro (2013), Richard Rumelt (2011), Jack Welch (2005) and Dana O’Donovan & Noah Rimland Flower (2013), and our own work with more than 80 organisations.

  1. Why do we do what we do? What’s the problem or opportunity in the world with which we are engaging?
  2. Who are our primary customers?
  3. What do we want to be famous for?
  4. Where will we compete, specifically?
  5. What is our winning move/s?
  6. How will we add value to our stakeholders?
  7. How does our strategy rest on insight that only we have?
  8. How does our strategy put us ahead of the market?
  9. What capabilities do we need to be successful in the future?
  10. What could a competitor do to hurt us?

10 strategic questions_June 2014

References

Bradley, C, Hirt, M, Hirt, & Smit, S 2011, ‘Have you tested your strategy lately?, McKinsey Quarterly, January

Favaro, K 2013 ‘How leaders mistake execution for strategy) and why that damages both)’, Strategy + business, February

Martin, R 2013, February 5 2013 ‘Don’t Let Strategy Become Planning’, HBR blog post http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/02/dont-let-strategy-become-plann/

O’Donovan, D & Rimland Flower, N 2013 ‘The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy.’, Standard Social Innovation Review http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/the_strategic_plan_is_dead._long_live_strategy

Rumelt, R 2011 ‘The perils of bad strategy’, McKinsey Quarterly, June

Welch, J 2005 Winning, Harper Business, New York