Rules To Shape Your StrategyAs business leaders we’re constantly shaping and re-shaping our strategies. We have to pay attention to the developments around the world in order for our companies to succeed because our strategies are intertwined with market forces that affect consumers and demand.

Mark Pollard wrote a theoretical blog post on how to shape strategies. He says, “The great thing about strategy-in-shapes is it makes your thinking look very deliberate, impossibly official, and crazy to mess with.”

The concepts he plays with the most are:

  • Problems
  • Insights – unspoken human truths
  • Strategy statements – one-line summary of the novel solution
  • Brand purposes – how the brand will serve humanity
  • Experience plans – how people interact with brand and related topics
  • Ideas and novel concepts
  • Three-act campaign structures – story-making.

Strategy Rule No.1: Gather Information

First, bring together useful information about your brand, business objectives, products, competition, culture, and human behavior. Take a look at analytics, do keyword research and look for patterns, look at consumer reviews, and use qualitative research if available to you.

Strategy Rule No.2: Shape-Sprint

Pollard comes up with a few strategies based on the information he’s gathered. He says, “I tend to dig then sprint and let it all percolate…then repeat.” When putting strategies together he finds it useful to close the door and think, open it to share and debate, then close it to hone in.

Strategy Rule No.3: Rewrite Your Shapes and Collaborate

To shape a strong strategy, embrace strong, visual language. Pollard suggests taking your three favorite strategies and rewriting them 10 times each. Keep making them shorter and stronger, easy to understand. Bring your ideas to your team and collaborate with them. They may be able to offer you even better ideas to help execute your strategy.

Strategy Rule No.4: Get it Straight before Presenting

Pollard suggests taking the one or two strategies your team favors and writing stories around them. He says in the story, take someone on the journey you’ve just been on from the problem, to the twist, to the ‘what if we…?’, to the answer. This can help you put your thoughts together in a more direct way.

Determine the Shape of your Strategy

Set a clear direction for your company whether it’s cutting costs, expanding services, or improving infrastructure. If you have broad priorities, make clear guidelines your employees understand and can act upon.

According to this article on the HBR Blog Network by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt, successful companies shape their high-level strategies by relying on simple rules of thumb.

In shaping strategies, Sull and Eisenhardt offer four simple rules to follow:

  1. Align activities with corporate objectives
  2. Adapt to local circumstances
  3. Foster coordination
  4. Make better decisions

Sull poses three questions to break down complex strategies into actionable steps:

  1. What are the key drivers of value creation?
  2. What are the three to five critical challenges if we overcome would ensure economic value?
  3. What are the must-win battles?

Sull says to translate corporate objectives into a few straightforward guidelines that help employees make on-the-spot decisions and adapt to constantly shifting environments, while keeping the big picture in mind. He also says, “For a strategy to influence action it must be remembered. To be remembered it must be understood. To be understood it must be simple.”

What techniques do you use to shape your strategy?