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What a Strategy Workshop Will Not Give You at the End

What a Strategy Workshop Will Not Give You at the End

In today’s article I want to cover what I believe is a major misunderstanding about general strategy workshops and visioning workshops. We have called the strategy workshop a visioning workshop in this study. It is a common term used in corporate strategy studies and transformation studies, depending on the firm you work at. You may call it a strategy workshop, or a planning workshop. They are all the same thing.

A strategy workshop does not create the strategy, but helps you narrow down the problem

If you are building up to this big strategy workshop, and think that at the end of it you are going to get a strategy, that is not true. The strategy workshop helps you narrow down things but it does not create the strategy. I am going to to talk you through the meaning of that as well as the implications.

A version of this article, with the slides and the exhibits, is available on YouTube as well. If you like exhibits and it is useful to look at, you can view it below.


Many of you who are FC Insiders, which means you have access to our most advanced content, you have access to the numerous videos we have and there are a lot of videos from the Corporate Strategy and Transformation Study. I am taking a few slides from that study and depicting them here, and I am doing a very high-level summary of the content from there.

If you are an FC Insider, you would have seen this slide, these are the components of the strategy workshop. These are the components of the strategy workshop, which took months of preparation and careful facilitation.

strategy workshop

It was a big deal, and we had to get it right. We have captured everything here including predictable change, unpredictable change, mapping out certain uncertainties, mapping up scenarios, value chain analysis, case studies, capability, and asset analysis, laying out the strategic vision, strategic ambition, and all those wonderful things.

Time-based level

Another way to depict this is on a time-based level, where you have a morning session where we present input. We tell the executives what we want them to think about. So we present the analysis of the value chain, the analysis of capabilities, some best practice case studies, and then have a discussion with them.

Then in the evening, or in the afternoon after lunch, we take all of what they have discussed and we start mapping out scenarios. Because there is no point in starting with the scenarios if they don’t have the background knowledge of how to debate what could possibly happen.

That is why we start the morning with seeding them with information and we then move to the afternoon and use that information.

The overall approach we are using comes from Succeeding as a Management Consultant

The overall approach we are using here actually comes from the second edition of Succeeding as a management consultant. Whereby we have made quite a lot of changes in the book and one thing we have done is that we have explained the top-down approach in a lot more detail so that people understand the overall approach across every single strategy or consulting assignment.

For every single consulting assignment, you need to figure out the problem statement, what is the question you are answering, then you need to do what is known as top-down analysis.

The top-down analysis only tells you where the problem lies and what is the likely scope of the problem. We do that in all of these four ways: focus interviews, benchmarks, case studies, and financial analyses.

Once we figure out where the problem lies and the likely size of the problem, then we go out and validate the problem by proving that it exists, developing the business case, and then developing opportunity charts, and then modeling everything.

What top-down analysis give you

strategy workshop strategic planning

Now here is the big deal The top-down analysis which is basically everything in orange (slide above) does not give you the strategy. It does not solve the problem. It is like a compass. It tells you where the problem lies and how large the problem can be. It tells you whether the problem is worth pursuing.

If you hire consultants, they will tell you our top-down analysis tells us, that if you optimize your supply chain the most savings you could make is 2 million dollars and if you are a 20 billion dollar business, why would you go ahead and do detailed financial modeling, figure out what the problem is and list all the steps to fix it? Why would you do that? So top-down analysis validates if it’s worth doing.

Strategy workshop is a similar exercise

The visioning workshop or the strategy workshop is a similar exercise. Look at the input to it. (see slide below)

strategy workshop input

You have a value analysis, case studies, drivers of change, capabilities and assets. In the top down approach, you have the focus interviews, benchmarks, case studies, financial analysis, which is the value chain analysis but also a business analysis.

And we then going to workshop it with the client to say that if these are the issues and this is the scope of the benefit and the scope of the problem, where do you think we should prioritize our analysis?

But it is not presenting an answer. All it says is that this is what we found top-down, so we are going to narrow our focus onto this area.

So let us work through it. We have done the top-down analysis and we say that, based on the top-down analysis, these are the most important areas, and this is what we think is important, this is what is core to your business.

Then the rest of the study is confirming that that is the core. And if that is the core what should be your strategy to operate in that core?

Now, of course, I am explaining you high-level corporate strategy in a few minutes. But my point is that these videos are meant to give you a primary answer to a few questions. The details are available for Insiders (long-term Premium members). You can become a Premium member here. (And you can email [email protected] if you need to learn is you can qualify to skip 6 months waiting period to become an FC Insider.)

If you are not an Insider and you want access to some of that content, go to firmsconsulting.com/promo, register for free and we will send you some advanced episodes.

Don’t assume strategy workshop solves a problem

But the point I want to make in this video is that do not assume that the strategy workshop or the visioning workshop solves a problem, as in giving you the answer. It solves a problem insofar as it narrows down the scope of analysis to where you need to focus because it essentially presenting the output of the top-down analysis. And the top down analysis does not give you the answer. It simply tells you where to go, and what is the size of the prize.

If you read the second edition of Succeeding as a management consultant, we cover this in quite a lot of detail there.

WHAT IS NEXT? We hope you found the “What a Strategy Workshop Will Not Give You at the End” post helpful. To get access to sample episodes of advaced content sign up for email updates on FIRMSconsulting.com/promo. If you have any questions about our membership training programs email support @ firmsconsulting.com.

Cheers, Kris

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