Embracing strategic thinking as an essential component of your strategy and planning process

We sometimes encounter executives and directors that are cynical about the value of strategy and planning processes. In our experience this typically stems from past experiences where the strategic thinking discussions have either been superficial or non-existent – ‘we just keep pushing around the same old ideas’ they say. To be worthwhile, strategic thinking must be both challenging and creative, pushing through ‘what is’ to ‘what could be’.

At Strategic Facilitators we encourage the Executive Teams and Boards we work with to embrace strategic thinking as an essential component of the strategy and planning process. Our approach is to seed these discussions with targeted strategic questions which we introduce at the beginning of strategy and planning processes.

In the lead up to delivering strategy and planning workshops we work with the Chair and/or the CEO to determine which strategic questions will be most valuable for the leadership team to explore. Over the last two decades our team has employed many different frameworks to help clients set the focus for their strategic thinking discussions, such as, Roger Martin’s ‘playing to win’ framework and Chris Bradley’s ‘ten tests’. Over hundreds of engagements, we have found that again and again, a handful of strategic questions can help to drive to the heart of what matters.

Strategic questions

  1. Why do we do what we do? What is the problem or opportunity in the world with which we are engaging?
  2. Who are our primary customers?
  3. What do we want to be famous for?
  4. Where will we compete, specifically?
  5. What is our winning move/s?
  6. How will we add value to our stakeholders?
  7. How does our strategy rest on insight that only we have?
  8. How does our strategy put us ahead of the market?
  9. What capabilities do we need to be successful in the future?
  10. What could a competitor do to hurt us?

Tackling the strategic questions that matter never fails to give rise to engaging and productive discussions. In our experience these discussions are vital for breaking through the entrenched assumptions surrounding an organisation’s operations.

A real life example

The TOM Co is a female founded company that exists to create a positive impact across personal and baby care. Founded by Aimee Marks in 2009, The TOM Co’s signature product was the first ever organic tampon to be available in Australian supermarkets and is now the leading organic personal care brand in the country. In 2017 The TOM Co was named ‘Australian Organic business of the year’ by Australian Organic.

Over multiple interactions, our team worked closely with the leadership team of The TOM Co to tackle key strategic questions relating to their aspiration, scope choices, key areas of competitive advantage, and the capabilities required to be successful. Through these discussions, we helped to consolidate their thinking on the future of the business and to clearly articulate The TOM Co’s strategic direction in a concise strategy statement. With this acting as a compass to guide our subsequent discussions, we worked to develop a three year strategic plan. This plan – captured in a single high-impact strategy-on-a-page – helps the TomCo focus on its highest strategic priorities: exploring new growth opportunities, and consolidating The TOM Co’s role in female health, empowerment and the health of the planet.



Bradley, C, Hirt, M, Hirt, & Smit, S 2011, ‘Have you tested your strategy lately?, McKinsey Quarterly, January

Favaro, K 2013 ‘How leaders mistake execution for strategy) and why that damages both)’, Strategy + business, February

Lafley, A & Martin, R 2013, Playing to win: How strategy really works, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston

Martin, R 2013, February 5 2013 ‘Don’t Let Strategy Become Planning’, HBR blog post http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/02/dont-let-strategy-become-plann/

O’Donovan, D & Rimland Flower, N 2013 ‘The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy.’, Standard Social Innovation Review http://www.ssireview.org/blog/ entry/the_strategic_plan_is_dead._long_live_strategy

Rumelt, R 2011 ‘The perils of bad strategy’, McKinsey Quarterly, June Welch, J 2005 Winning, Harper Business, New York


The information contained in this website is indicative and for general information purposes only. For full advice on running a process that will suit your individual requirements please contact Strategic Facilitators on 03 9428 8817.

To download a PDF regarding what to consider before preparing for a workshop or offsite click here.