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!

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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 Redirecting... 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…

Candid and honest question. What’s the second step?

I’ve been moderately aware of wardley mapping for a while and am slowly absorbing the concepts, but when reading this post it resonated so much I just had to sign up and ask, how can you apply the mapping concepts to a personal strategy. I love the bit about time slot vs checkbox. But I’m struggling with what to do on my first time slot. Do you have any pointers?

Maybe I just need to stay confused and keep absorbing concepts until I reach enlightenment, but I felt it was worth asking : )

Hi @jesusgollonet,

thank you for asking. That’s a really important question.

The first step is to book time for analysis.

The second step - is to periodically do the analysis.

The third, and most difficult - is understand what is happening around you, and what is the best course of action you could take till next review.

Then do it.

A couple of first iterations should be devoted to what do I need to to good analysis. I’d say - Wardley Maps, but if you are just starting in this area, any flavour of GTD will help you.

Does it sound helpful?

It does, thanks for taking the time to reply.

It feels like the problem I have is that I’m trying to look for a specific solution or just some list of techniques that if I only master then I’ll be able to see things more clearly (as an example, my first instinct was to google “what do I need to do good analysis wardley map” to figure out if that’s just a step in a well-defined path). Which, now that I read it, sounds like exactly the problem you were describing in the first post.

But the gist of what you are saying is “just allocate recurrent time to try and make sense of things around you to figure a way forward”.

Is that a fair assessment?

Thanks again

Yep.

Mastering Wardley Maps takes a lot of time, and requires a lot of other practices (Doctrine). There is no need to wait, you can start right now moving in a better direction, and learn along the route.

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Fantastic, thanks!

Started reading what I assume to be the paper you were originally referring to (https://leadingedgeforum.com/research/mapping-4-from-ad-hoc-to-strategic-learning/) and have already seen some useful thoughts in the same direction. I have plenty to digest now.