A great strategy is a great story. Based on the story of the hero’s journey, in our first article 3 Essential Elements to Epic Strategy I introduced how to transform a good business plan into a great strategic direction by developing a story that inspires and motivates stakeholders to make your goals a reality.
In Part 1, we explore the role that a strategic assessment plays in your story’s structure.
What is a Strategic Assessment?
In the hero’s journey, the dilemma, the destination, and the journey are the core structural elements of classic mythological storytelling. In strategy development, your strategic assessment is the equivalent of the dilemma, and it sets the stage for your epic journey.
Your strategic assessment is the result of a deep dive into the world in which you operate. In other words, it goes beyond what’s happening around you in immediate terms, such as business transactions or your reactions to changes in your environment to set up great strategic thinking. It includes more exploratory information from internal and external sources that can influence or impact your business, such as industry trends and innovations. The purpose of collecting such an inordinate amount of information is to provide you with a broader context to engage in strategic planning so that you make decisions that move your organization forward.
Elements of a Strategic Assessment
Strategic assessments utilize two basic types of information – quantitative and qualitative.
Quantitative information - this is the stuff we all love: data, facts, numbers! Look, I am a high intuitive, and even I totally dig data. The quantitative analysis part of your strategic assessment is your chance to geek out. Go for it. But, don’t just stop at the analysis of your data. The strategic assessment of your epic strategy means you get the chance to look beyond your own performance to numbers driven information such as:
- Market research data on industry growth trends
- Shifts in the market and profitability changes
- Challenges due to innovations or other factors
Yep, you can really get your geek on.
But, as we all know, numbers are not the whole story. We need to explore the squishy side too.
Qualitative information is the time to listen to opinions, perspectives and insights. It is often where the data and trends gain their meaning. Interview key employees, customers, and influencers to get their ideas about what’s working, what they think you should be working on and where they think the organization should be heading. Leverage them as part of your strategic planning consulting team. You may find amazing insights in a seemingly random comment from someone outside your business.
How to Create a Strategic Assessment
A strategic assessment is a result of analyzing, compiling and summarizing all information gathered during the deep dive process. Organize your assessment into these four areas:
- Your assets: what you’ve built (or plan to build) and what you will invest in and develop over time
- The key challenges or obstacles you face; these are the issues or realties you must address or keep a close eye on
- The favorable forces; internal or external forces that are working for you. I like to think these are the universal truths you can use or, more poetically, the winds at your back
- The vulnerabilities; things that are worrisome or could pose a threat. Unlike the challenges, you don’t know enough about them or you cannot agree that they are a threat.
This summary provides you with greater awareness of your organization’s future – just as understanding the dilemma reveals the role our hero must step up to in our classic mythological stories. Like the plot of the great story, the job of this assessment is to provide clues to what lies ahead. These clues become the basis of the strategic issues to be resolved during planning.
Up next in the series…Step 2, The Destination or Your Vision. OR download the Ebook.