The first step that you need to develop a sound strategy


Nearly 4 years ago, on Friday, I was about to end a week by checking then-hot Google+. 15 minutes that I had left was not enough to start any new task, and I was not allowed to go home.

Little did I knew what would happen that way. Simon’s presentation was 13:09, it fitted the time slot perfectly. After I watched it, I got a very uncomfortable feeling of being in a wrong place and working for a wrong company.

I spent the next couple of weeks going through Simon’s blog, devouring all the materials, and hoping they will tell me what my strategy for life should be. I am afraid I was in a situation of many people (and organisations) who know that something is not ok, that they are not doing what they should, but it is very difficult to point what else exactly they should be doing.

And only recently, after doing the research for my latest position paper (about learning, soon to be released) I figured out it is a completely wrong approach. It just could not work, as I was trying to learn a tool and then figure out how to use it to improve my situation. The problem is that with that approach I was not driven by the environment, but by whatever tool I was actually interested in.

There is a substantial difference between finding a right tool for the job and finding a right problem for the available tool. The latter does not work most of the time.

The essential first step towards developing any strategy, regardless of whether it is your personal one, or a commercial one, is the same - book a time in your calendar to regularly review what important is happening around you.

It sounds simple, but it is not.

The key problem is that to do so, you have to accept you will make a lot of mistakes. And it is a normal - Strategy is Complex, as Simon says. It is not linear, but iterative process, and it consists of many experiments, and some of those are successful and some are not.

The other issue is that it has to be time slot, not a checkbox to tick. A checkbox begs for marking it ‘complete’, and it is a trap. Each event can be easily dismissed as unimportant, if you do not have time for analysis. With a timebox, quite contrary, you get a chance to analyse important events and those that do not look that important. If you have nothing to analyse, you can always think of what would you like to do, and where you would like to be.

That simple exercise allows you to find out what do you need from tools, and you will be able to actively seek for the right set (and I bet maps will be one of them). But the decision loop should come before the strategy.

So if you can, book your strategy, now!


I have been looking at approaches and techniques to support lifelong learning for a while.

Your assessment that practicing situational awareness can inform decision making and strategy to improve the outcome of all forms of personal development is very encouraging.

I look forward to reading your position paper.


@john.grant, I’d love to learn what you have figured out :slight_smile: .

Maybe will be useful for you? LEF builds there a group that is focused on figuring out how to live/learn/be happy with all the technology we are exposed to.


For me the journey was somehow different.
I figured that where I was was not going to cut it, I was explaining why with gobbledigook. Mapping made it click into place and nailed my choice.
Every time somebody is telling me about their strategy I now cannot help but map in my head and when holding such mirror, it is often showing an inconvenient truth.
Same goes with failed projects, every time it starts with building certainty out of a complex volatile situation.
Wardley / Cynefin to the rescue! Sadly most executives go “What?” when you mention those…