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Thinking Simply About Strategy

The three stages of doing strategy and how to approach it

· strategy,charity strategy,strategic planning,executing strategy,Leadership

Strategy as a term and a process can seem huge and cumbersome, one that is often thought of as long and complicated. Language is everything, so for this month's blog, we set ourselves a challenge of describing strategy with words that give it a new edge, other than planning. Take a look at what we came up with and see if it positively impacts your perspective on strategy. To inspire you further, we've created an image for you to pin up.

At PlanLab, we think the activity of strategy has three stages and we have listed some of the approaches within each stage:





Dream: what are the aspirations for your organisation, project or initiative? Visualise the future state with some blue-sky thinking.

Horizon Scan: alongside your dreams, what are the futuristic influences on your strategy. How will these influences affect your dreams?

Look Outside: what currently in the environment around you is influencing your plans? Looking at what traditionally was called PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal, Environmental) allows you to be prepared for external impacts beyond your control.

Look in the Mirror: assessing your project/product structure or organisational culture and resources equips you to understand what is missing or relevant in making new decisions.

Assumptions: when problem solving, it is useful to identify what hypotheses are relevant to making new plans, projects and products. Particularly, today, new strategic tools require you to act as scientists to prove a new method or whether a product is viable. In order to do this, choosing the main hypothesis or assumption to test is where to start.


Pattern: finding affinities and connecting the dots between ideas and processes can help you group modules of work, create product features and choose priorities. Noticing patterns can also help you notice cultural causes and effects.

Map: project plans can be simple or detailed and having a map of action can help you take it a step at a time. Some examples of maps include; swim-lanes, gantt charts, spreadsheets and flow charts.

Codify: there are two angles to codifying strategy - the act of organising into systems and laying out guardrails and then setting out your plans into classifications or structures.

Make Good Decisions: once the thinking and research has been done in stage 1, the next stage is to decide on the best course of action. If stage 1 is viewed as a review and research stage, then making plans based on that information becomes positive action.


Make: The make approach describes strategy related to products, services or projects where development is required. It also, describes where content is considered necessary to make strategy happen.

Do: The most simplest way to describe the execution of strategy. 'Do it".

Build: The build approach is closely related to the 'make' of projects, products, services and systems. When I mentioned about forming hypotheses and assumptions in stage 1, the build stage often confirms whether a hypothesis or assumption is validated. Therefore, by building or actioning something even in a simple form will give insight into whether your plans, systems or structures are working or workable.

Test: New ways of doing strategy require a more agile mindset and process that allows you to validate plans and products as you make and deliver your plans. A key part of this is to test along the way, so it reduces longterm risk in time and investment. Approaching plans with flexibility, enables any assumptions or hypotheses to be validated earlier, rather than later.

Pete and I at PlanLab, love doing 'Strategy' and enjoy assisting Third Sector leaders who are often far stretched with time and capacity to get it done. The fast-paced world we live in, also can seem to constrict the amount of time it takes to form strategy. We have a few new innovative tools that can make the process quicker and efficient, as well as utilising the old methods, where necessary. We will be talking about these, as well as discussing some of these approaches in more detail in the next few blogs. Make sure you let us know that you want to receive these if you aren't already subscribed.

Simple strategy Doing Strategy

Written by Lizzie Telfer

Lizzie Telfer Co-Founder and Director PlanLab
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