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Strategy is a verb

October 02, 2019

You’re probably already looking up the word “strategy” to see if it’s a noun or a verb. Spoiler alert: it’s a noun.

I got to thinking about the word “strategy” and what it means after our recent Delve launch party. I was on the outside of a conversation between two people who had just met, and one threw out a challenge: Is design a noun or a verb? I thought about it and then considered other words I use a lot and the word strategy came to mind immediately. (We’ll table the “design” noun or verb question for my colleague to decide if he wants to write his own blog on that topic).

So, what do I think? Strategy should be a verb, but too often it’s envisioned as a stationary noun, and not a hyperactive verb. This mindset could explain why so many strategy efforts feel unproductive (and even dreadful).

When we treat “strategy” as only a strategic planning process – something with a start and a finish – we miss the point. Strategy is not something that happens at a point in time – it happens constantly. It’s always in motion. It’s active and should be driving more than just a bunch of meetings among a select few that result in some PowerPoint slides that could land with a thud (or with no sound at all). Much like there is a call by many designers that the practice of “design thinking” is often missing the real need to evolve to “design doing,” strategy is ready for some changes.

Here are five ways you can help strategy in your organization become more active:

  • Invite some guests to the head table. Involving only a few select people to create a strategy is pretty typical. A smaller core team means decisions can flow faster and are made at the right level of management. Where this falls apart, though, is when there is no prototyping of the thinking or decisions with other stakeholders. Invite other stakeholders not just to nod their heads, but to challenge ideas and push assumptions. Co-creation of the ideas will create advocates in the long run and make the strategy stronger as you diverge to other points of view.
  • Make the table bigger. Some leaders think that they have sole responsibility for all strategic initiatives. Some facets of strategy obviously need to be executed by other individuals or are done by all, but some initiatives and tactics can get stuck on a leader’s to-do list month after month when they could be delegated and tackled faster. What’s on your strategy to-do list? What can you pass on to someone else?
12 Article Amy Strategy2
Invite other stakeholders not just to nod their heads, but to challenge ideas and push assumptions.

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