Strategy the Groupaya Way


Now that we’re out of the closet, you’ll notice a few posts in the coming weeks talking about Groupaya’s strategy. We’re on the tail end of our strategic planning process (defining our mission, core values, principles for how we work, and the plan for achieving our vision), and we’d love to enlist your feedback.

Of course we don’t want to presume strategy work is as fascinating to the rest of the world as it is to us, but it is important for us to share. Why you ask? Well in our first strategy session, we took a step back and asked a simple question: What is strategic planning? We agreed:

  • It’s an opportunity to align our team around a vision, shared values, and goals
  • It’s a path and a plan for how we’re going to achieve our goals
  • Most importantly, it’s a process for activating ourselves and our larger network

Kristin, Eugene, and I all have a lot of strategy work under our belts, and we often see other strategy processes place too much emphasis on the end product (a report or a deck) and not enough on the process of developing the strategy and evolving it. Those processes too often result in little more than a nicely bound stack of paper on a shelf. Nilofer Merchant extensively explores the failure of this outcome and approach in her book, The New How.

In our experience, the most effective strategic planning is a collective inquiry process through which an organization and its network’s potential is uncovered and unleashed.  And then, once the strategy has been developed, it is continuously evolved.

But we’re a teeny, tiny, budding company with five people on a good day. Who do we need to activate besides ourselves? Who should we be sharing with? The answer hit us over the head like a ton of bricks. You! Our friends, our colleagues, the people we are excited to learn and share with over the coming years.

So, in this spirit, we’d love to invite you, our valued network, to help us define our path and bring this future into reality. In future posts, we will share some of the details of our strategy.  For now, we are curious, what are some of your “best practices” around developing or evolving strategy?  We look forward to hearing from you!

  • joseph.blaylock

    I’m not sure that it’s all that helpful, (I’m answering off-the-cuff here) but I tend to take a target-centered (user-centered, me-centered, whatever) approach. First I ask who I’m planning for. Me? Us? Them? Then I find my time frame (I’m most comfortable working in units of 3-6 months or 6-8 years, I need to learn to imagine better over other timescales). Then I ask the basic questions: “How does future me (you, or they, or us) want to be doing? How does future me want to be working? What does a day in the life of future me look like?” Then work backwards from there. “Ok, given this situation we have to have this other set of infrastructure in place. Given those we have to have these relationships built and those goals achieved and…” and so forth. It’s like doing agile estimation, but on a longer timescale and your stories are features of your work rather than features in your work products.

    The art (to me) is figuring out how to align the imagined outcome to the timescale on which I want to work. I sometimes get caught thinking in terms of very big things or very small things. I think the latter is less dangerous than the former, because I think the most dangerous thing when strategizing is a lack of ambition. Well. Second most dangerous. The most dangerous is forgetting that all planning is provisional. Or as my dad used to say, “Shit happens. Cope.” But once you take that as a given, having enough ambition to not trap yourself in a gutter is a pretty big deal. :)

    • Rapetzel

      I love that you start with imagined outcomes, and place yourself in the middle of that future reality. I think too many planning processes are based on frustrations in the current reality, instead of starting with the aspiration at the end of the tunnel. In a framework I often use we call it ‘backcasting.’

      I also appreciate the agile analogy. That’s really useful framing for potentially the hardest part of the work: creating the provisional plan that is enough aligned with an appropriate time scale to be useful, as well as adaptable! Absolutely an art.