Do we need phases in strategy projects?

by

Jim asked me the other day why we (and most strategy consultancies) conduct all our mainline strategy projects in three phases. Really, it was a just for fun kind of question. We learned early in our strategy training that it makes a lot of sense to start with some kind of assessment (where are we now), then move to a strategy (where are we going) and wrap up with a plan (how do we get there). Projects are extremely different – different durations, activities, deliverables, people involved – but they almost always follow these basic three steps.

We run across clients who want to skip one of the phases, but it is pretty easy to make a case for doing all three. Without an assessment, you aren’t aware of all the issues (many of which are rooted below the surface) or the resources you have to work with. Without the strategy phase you have no overall vision by which to make difficult technology choices. Without a plan, people aren’t aligned about exactly how to make things happen.

Jim wasn’t really questioning why we do all the activities in the phases but more why we have to structure it in time as such. We pondered whether projects were closed off to new information by calling a phase complete. What we came to after a little healthy debate that really wore out his dog (since it resulted in a longer walk) was that a strategy project should be like a funnel, where you start with a hypothesis but a broad one and gradually hone in on the final recommendation. The checkpoints along the way (i.e. the end of the phases) not only put some rigor around the process to ensure you are making progress to that end, they also ensure the right amount of input and buy in of key stakeholders along the way. If you get agreement on what the problems and opportunities are, as well as the big picture of how you want to address them, the actual projects that need to happen are easy. And interestingly enough, we find that the hardest point to get alignment on is the assessment (counterintuitive to many since they think it is the most straightforward) and the easiest point is at the end of the plan (assuming we’ve had the right checkpoints along the way).

So the answer is yes. There are really good reasons to structure strategy projects in these chunks and in this order – although overlapping phases can be both necessary and beneficial. So for now, we will stick with this basic construct and find more interesting problems to tackle…

READ MORE

Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

About a week ago, I completed the second live (virtual) training in the process of becoming a Certified Professional Coach through iPEC. Once again, my mind was blown! It reinforced for me that virtual workshops can, and do, work, and, in a lot of ways, I prefer them...

read more
Finding My Work-Life Balance

Finding My Work-Life Balance

In my previous post, I told the story of how I got back into consulting after becoming a mom. All of the diverse experiences I had during that journey have helped me to find my work-life balance by… Defining Boundaries “Go home,” my first boss said 12 years back —...

read more
How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

I Landed My Dream Job Throwback to 2014, I had completed my MBA, landed my dream job as a consultant, and was hoping that my new consulting career would exponentially ramp up my career growth for the next 5 years. This would position me to take on critical decision...

read more
Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

In August of this year, as part of our annual company meeting, our team at Thought Ensemble participated in the foundational session of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training led by Dr. Nika White, IOM, CDE (she/her/hers). One of the most meaningful moments...

read more
Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

It is often said that organizational culture is like a fog — it is all around us; it impacts our ability to see, to move quickly, and to deliver; but we cannot quite put our finger on it. Indeed, some organizations see their culture as a byproduct of operations,...

read more
We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

Why have we refreshed our brand, you ask? Well, as we have grown and matured as an organization, we felt that our previous brand elements no longer represented us as well as they could. You see, we founded Thought Ensemble back in 2008 to help companies better compete...

read more
Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

I recently wrote about how company purpose is being tested and inspired by all the events of 2020. This topic is very real for us at Thought Ensemble. We’ve been thinking a lot about what really matters as we’ve navigated the...

read more
How 2020 Is Testing and Inspiring Corporate Purpose

How 2020 Is Testing and Inspiring Corporate Purpose

In August 2019, the Business Roundtable rewrote their statement of corporate purpose. I followed this with significant interest being that I have never forgotten the debates about corporate purpose in business school almost two decades ago. We were taught that the...

read more
Why Purpose-Driven Organizations May Struggle With Change

Why Purpose-Driven Organizations May Struggle With Change

I love working with companies who really want to make a difference, beyond just making money for their shareholders. I mean, making money is fun and all, but it is even more rewarding to join in on a just cause. Plus, as this HBR article explains, companies who have...

read more