Developing good strategy doesn’t require a complicated process. There is no denying that developing good strategy is hard work, but, the reality is, the formula is simple: Diverse Perspective + Problem Identification + Problem Investigation = Good Strategy.
The genesis of all good strategy is applying diverse perspective to properly defining and systematically investigating the problem. All three components overlap and must be used; using any one or two components will result in incomplete strategy, the wrong strategy or no strategy at all.
Problem investigation, or analysis as it is often referred to, is a detailed inquiry or systematic investigation of the problem from which good strategy flows. Similar to problem identification, problem investigation requires a blend of creative and critical thought, and is enhanced by engaging an optimally diverse group in the process.
There is no clear line between problem identification and analysis; in fact, there is overlap between the two. As such, one’s engagement in a comprehensive identification process will have already generated a wealth of information that can be fed into the investigation component of strategy development.
Force Field Problem Solving Model
In the very simplest of terms, the “problem” we are faced with in strategy development is how to get from the current state (status quo) to the desired future state or problem solution. There are many problem-solving models that you could choose from, but a model I have found effective, in conjunction with strategy development, is the Force-Field Analytical Problem Solving Model, developed by Kurt Lewin in the 1940’s. This model is a systematic approach that keeps you focused on the information needed to make the desired change and is particularly good for tackling complex problems. It employs creative and analytical thinking techniques to effectively analyze a problem and develop a good strategy to get from Point A to Point B.
The model is based on the theory that current forces are maintaining the status quo and if these forces are impacted appropriately you can move from the current state to the desired future state or problem solution. Driving forces are those elements in the current situation that if strengthened could result in promoting change and movement toward the desired future state. Restraining forces are elements in the current situation that if weakened or eliminated could also promote change; these forces act as barriers to achieving the desired future state.
Brainstorming is used to identify driving forces and restraining forces. If brainstorming is conducted effectively, it is not uncommon to identify 100 to 200 (or more) forces during a session. Once drivers and restrainers have been identified, the results are analyzed using analytical and convergent thinking techniques. The goal is to identify priority forces that will have the most impact if influenced and over which your group has control. In my experience, if you engage in comprehensive problem identification and investigation with an optimally diverse group, and the participants relax self imposed barriers, the right strategic initiatives will intuitively become apparent. Ultimately, three to four priority drivers and three to four priority restrainers should be identified; these forces become the basis for your strategic initiatives.
Once the priority forces and strategic initiatives are identified, it is best to refer back to the problem and confirm that the initiatives make sense and will lead to accomplishing your objective and to your desired future state.
The next step in developing a strategy is to convert the initiatives into strategic issue statements and fully develop each initiative into a strategy, including action steps, metrics and possible accountability.
8 Steps to problem resolution
- Position / restate your problem statement as the vision for the future desired state, or the objective that you are trying to achieve.
- Identify all of the forces in the current environment that are pushing toward problem resolution or your vision. These are the “driving forces.”
- Identify all of the forces in the environment that are inhibiting your ability to achieve your vision. These are the “restraining forces.”
- Identify 3 or 4 priority driving forces that could be realistically impacted.
- Identify 3 or 4 priority restraining forces that could be realistically impacted.
- Identify strategic initiatives that will strengthen the driving forces
- Identify strategic initiatives that will weaken the restraining forces.
- Confirm that your initiatives will achieve your objective / future desired state.
In the meantime, let me know your experience with using the Force Field Problem Solving model to create strategy. Likewise, I would like to hear about other models that you might have tried and if they worked well for you.