Yesterday saw the first presentation of the new PM Forum training course on “Being more strategic” (a Strategy workshop) which was hosted in the marvellous client space at Linklaters solicitors. Whilst most delegates were from law firms there were a good number from accountancy practices and even a representative from the property profession.

The challenges that delegates faced in their roles were daunting – reviewing the firm’s overall strategy, repositioning, managing post-merger integration, building consensus across international networks and gaining greater buy-in to the strategic process to ensure strategy implementation.

What is strategy?

After reviewing definitions of strategy from Mitzberg, Evans, Sola, Couturier, Porter, Day, Schoemaker, Kotler, Collins and others, the delegates decided that the most important elements of a definition were: higher purpose, direction, route map, competitive advantage, sustainability, identification of core challenges, choice, focus and co-ordinated action.

Strategy skills

Various models of strategic thinking environments and competencies were examined and after some self-assessments we identified the various resources needed for strategic thinking: time, observation, information, open minds, external perspective, challenging questions, analytical and creative skills, discussion, understanding of goals, systemic thinking, identification of assumptions and biases, access to decision makers, buy in to the strategic process, facilitation skills and agreement to aims and plans.

Strategy development as an empowering process

A key lesson was the need to take people on the strategy journey so that they engaged with the process, participated in the identification of issues and opportunities and contributed to the strategic choices and solutions.

Theory supported by practical tools

Most delegates found it valuable to have a whole raft of strategic models pulled together in one place as well as the ability to try out a number of practical tools that they could take back and use at their firms. Tools that were found to be of most value included:

  • Examining assumptions and dominant mental models
  • Brainstorming a combined PESTLE (STEP) environmental and five forces competitive analysis
  • Structured approach to analysing the impact of organisational culture
  • Grid to break down and reframe core challenges
  • Creative exercise for finding a mission statement
  • Using the “from” and “to” framework to summarise strategic change

As I had suspected, there was too much material for the half day session (although there was a lot of additional material provided and signposting to further readying) so I will tweak the session before it’s next presentation and we may considering extending it to a full day (Let me know your thoughts on this).