At a recent ” Be more strategic ” training workshop the delegates summarised their rather full and intensive day by preparing presentations to summarise and highlight the key points that they had learned.

Sailing as a metaphor for strategy

One of the presentations used the metaphor of sailing a ship to explain strategy. They argued that a firm was like a ship and the partners and staff were the crew. It didn’t matter how great or modern the ship, nor how fast it could travel but if it wasn’t clear where it was trying to reach and what direction it was sailing it would not succeed. Consider the quote from Roman philosopher Seneca “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable”.

Think also of the stars – millions of options in the sky above – and the need to choose just one or two objectives in order to navigate to the destination.

This particularly resonated with me having written five years ago about the perfect storm in the legal services.

Another of those presentations focused on two of my favourite ideas – keeping things simple and the power of three They summarised the day in a series of “threes”:

Strategy process

Despite all of the complex models discussed, they choose the most simple:

  • Where are we now? (Analysis of the current situation including the core challenge)
  • Where do we want to be? (Goal setting)
  • How will we get there? (Strategy as a means to get from the current situation to the desired future)

There’s more about this process in this blog

Other simple models discussed included:

    • Situation
    • Objectives
    • Strategy
    • Tactics
    • Actions
    • Control
    • Research
    • Objectives
    • Strategy
    • Implementation
    • Evaluation
    • Resources

Strategic purpose

You must have a mission and/or vision and set goals before you select a strategy. We looked at the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) from Jim Collins’ “From good to great” as well as other models.

But we also considered the work of Simon Sinek and his talk on “How great leaders inspire action” by working from the inside out with his golden circle

  • What do we do?
  • How do we do it?
  • Why do we do it?

Strategic values

Another key component of strategy development in a professional service firm – and we looked at various models addressing the “invisible hand” – is that of culture.

There is a clearly a link with culture and purpose (e.g. maximise short term profits, build a business for the future, shape the future of law, help businesses grow etc). In this part, the team focused on:

  • What’s our purpose?
  • How do we communicate and collaborate best within our culture?
  • How do we measure success in our culture?

And this identified a key issue relating to reward and the need to align our strategic priorities with the reward systems within the practice.

Rational and emotional

Having considered the power of emotions in motivation and change management the final set of three from the group was:

  • Identify (and segment) the stakeholders
  • Understand their motivation(s)
  • Use emotion to prompt engagement

Big picture with helicopters

The final groups drew some excellent pictures to summarise their takeaways:

Previous strategy blogs

Blogs from previous “Be more strategic” workshops and other similar events include:

Strategy books

Some of the strategy books discussed included: