How To Have Strategic Conversations


Strategy should be an ongoing conversation. One of the keys to maximizing your strategic leadership potential is to facilitate effective strategy conversations. A strategy conversation is a systematic method of encouraging the exchange of ideas, beliefs and opinions on the key strategic elements of a business. In a strategy conversation, the participants mentally move with one another from point to point.Three characteristics promote healthy strategy conversations:

1. Candor: The willingness to express honest ideas and opinions.

2. Suspension: The discipline to actively listen with- out judging.

3. Openness: The ability to thrive in a situation where the outcome is unknown.

The participants’ ability to embrace these criteria can encourage new and different perspectives that can generate breakthrough strategy.

New strategy conversations begin with dialogue.A strategy dialogue facilitates the exchange of insights and understanding between two or more people on the important issues of the business. Once the group has exhausted the topics of strategic relevance through dialogue, the facilitator directs the group to begin discussion.Through discussion, the group breaks down the insights generated in the exploratory dialogue phase and harnesses them to develop solutions that move things forward.

What emerges from the discussion are the actionable strategies, accountability and implementation that bring the conversation its end result. This is where focus becomes clear, trade-offs are weighed,and decisions are made.

Strategy discussions should not be concentrated at the top; they must take place at every level of the organization. Strategy will remain stranded in the executive suites unless teams throughout the organization can effectively translate broad corporate objectives into concrete action.

Just as a helicopter pilot monitors his planned course during flight for conditions that would warrant adjustment, we too must monitor our strategic direction to determine when a change in strategy is appropriate. Here is a checklist of five moments when it is critical to evaluate your strategy:

  1. Goals are achieved or changed.
  2. Evolution in customer needs.
  3. Innovation in the market.
  4. Competitors change the perception of value.                                                                          
  5. Capabilities grow or decline.     

What’s your end game? How will your colleagues, employees and customers describe you? Most important, how will you assess your run? It’s not about the little things. It’s about how you create the defining moments that shape the trajectory of a team, a business, a life. It’s about coalescing insights into competitive advantages that you champion. It’s about rising above the fray and seeing things others don’t. And you can make that happen, if you’re willing to elevate. 

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