Here are two productive question-based strategic thinking exercises for a broad set of business situations.
“What’s It Like?”
This strategic thinking exercise has you look for analogous situations to yours, going to school on others who are smarter or better than you are in solving similar challenges.
The first step is to identify the characteristics of your situation or challenge, asking yourself the following questions to find ways to generalize your situation:
- What is this really trying to accomplish?
- How would I describe this situation in 5 – 7 words?
- What’s this like in other businesses?
Identify who else faces a similar situation to your generalized business challenge and then use their perspective to identify how they’d address your situation and solve it:
- Who else faces this?
- How are they addressing it?
- What would it be like if we addressed it similarly?
“Where Do We Add Value?”
This strategic thinking exercise focuses on where a business or internal department best delivers for customers. Themes that emerge help to identify areas for near term focus or elimination.
First, answer the following questions. Ideally this would take place in a pre-session survey:
- What are the TOP 3 things we do that ADD INCREDIBLE VALUE for customers?
- What are the TOP 3 things we do that DON’T DELIVER INCREDIBLE VALUE because we can’t/don’t focus enough time, attention, and/or resources on them?
- What are the TOP 3 things we do that ADD LITTLE OR NO VALUE for customers?
Record the answers. Look for themes – areas of agreement & disagreement. Based on the themes that emerge, have your group answer the following questions:
- For Areas of Current Incredible Value – How do we continue to grow the value delivered to provide even greater advantage?
- For Areas that Don’t Deliver Incredible Value Because of Limitations – How can we work around resource limitations? What are new approaches to increase value? If we can’t fix this, should we eliminate trying to have an impact in these areas?
- For Areas Where Little or No Value is Delivered – Is each of these critical? Are there opportunities to exit, eliminate, or re-work these activities? If it’s warranted, what steps can we take to make dramatic improvements in the value delivered?
There are many more strategic thinking exercises, but these two are beneficial ones to apply to common business situations that you may face.