Moving Toward an Adaptive Strategy

With all the changes that are going on in the market, it’s tempting to retreat to a war room and emerge with a grand five-year strategy. Unfortunately, a five-year strategy can give you and the team the illusion of control, and may even distract your team from responding to the current situation.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t have a vision or a plan to get from Point A to Point B. But we aresuggesting that you think of strategy as an adaptive process of sensing your environment, trying new things, and measuring the results. In other words, instead of a 100-slide PowerPoint which will never be read, focus more of your energy on simple rules of thumb to help your team manage novelty and constant change.

If you find that your team needs more tightly defined strategies and metrics for faster decision making, hold a series of brainstorms and ask:

  1. Based on our customers’ needs and our sense of how to win in the market, how would we define our team’s mission? A mission is an ambitious yet achievable objective, focused on what your customers need. For example, Tesla plans to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy; Nike wants to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world; NOBL works to expand access to meaningful work.

  2. How could we measure that mission?Define both short-term metrics (e.g., newsletter subscribers) and long-term measures to follow (e.g., increase in productivity). For teams with internal customers, such as HR, try a simple monthly survey in which you ask your customer how happy they are with your service. We also recommend building a simple dashboard for your team to track their metrics over time, and reviewing them during Friday Shipping meetings.

  3. Based on your mission and your metrics, what future events (positive or negative) can you try to predict, and what should the team do in response? Ask the team to generate simple “If, Then” statements. “If” is the possible condition or outcome, and “Then” is the team’s response in the form of a MUST imperative.  For instance: IF someone in the company does a better job than us at fulfilling our mission, then we MUST promote them and ask to learn from them.

Now that you have a better understand of what your strategy should look like, we suggest reviewing it during:

  1. The Project Kickoff, when you discuss potential scenarios and ways forward.

  2. The Sensing Session, when the team defines potential conditions and strategic imperatives.

  3. The Team Retrospective, when the team reviews the benefit and harm of existing strategies.

  4. The Shipping Meeting, when you review and discuss team metrics.


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