Distillations in this newsletter: Free copy of ‘Core Values’; Strategy Scoping; Decision rights for strategy


A monthly concoction of insight, learning and things you might have missed for anyone who works on strategy, works with strategy or just loves strategy.

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This month …

  • Get a free copy of my new ‘Core Values’ book
  • The Case for Strategy Scoping
  • Strategy snippets you might have missed: Decision rights for strategy; strategy quotes for 2023.

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Discover the content of past issues of Strategy Distilled.


Get a free copy of my new ‘Core Values’ book

I have 10 free copies of the paperback version of Core Values to give away to subscribers – just send me your postal address. I’ve now got both the e-book and paperback versions of ‘Core Values … and how they underpin strategy and organisational culture’ available on Amazon and would love to hear what you think. You can leave a rating / review on Amazon or contact me directly to give me your feedback at mike@goalatlas.com. I’d also be interested to hear what other topics you would like to see covered in a compact book like this which aims to help readers to do one thing well – in this case, devise a set of organisational core values. Find out more about the book or buy a copy of the e-book.


The Case for Strategy Scoping

I talk a lot, in my consultancy work, about strategy scoping. I have yet to meet a client who would not benefit from a scoping process prior to embarking on strategy development. So, I was quite surprised, as I reviewed all the topics I’ve covered in the past 20 issues of Strategy Distilled* that I hadn’t mentioned strategy scoping.

[*Hooray – we made it to issue 21, without missing a month!]

So, here goes.

Strategy scoping writes the brief for strategy development. It ensures the strategy you develop is rigorous and fit-for-purpose, setting both signposts and milestones for strategy development.

Strategy Scoping has three main objectives:

  1. To enable initial decisions to be made about what purpose your forthcoming strategy is intended to serve, what, broadly, is in- and out-of-scope and to assemble a body of evidence to explain and justify those decisions.
  2. To propose what needs to be done during strategy development, who needs to be involved and how key strategic decisions are going to be made, validated and ratified.
  3. To define a set of criteria by which the strategy, once produced, will be deemed to be fit-for-purpose.

Strategy Scoping has five main benefits:

  1. Strategy development becomes simpler, more focused and more straightforward to manage by identifying why the strategy is needed, which decisions need to be made and what evidence is needed to make them.
  2. The process of strategy scoping aligns senior leaders on strategic intentions and aspirations.
  3. Strategy development becomes more transparent and hence can lead to more involvement, and better-quality involvement, across the organisation.
  4. Strategy development becomes less prone to bias, more evidence based, more data-driven and hence a lot more robust.
  5. Over the longer term, a simpler, more transparent and more justifiable strategy will be more readily engaged with, more willingly committed to and more eagerly adopted. As a result, it is more likely to achieve the strategic success it defines for itself.

These are benefits for the Executives and the Board who will ultimately own the strategy, for the Strategy Team who will be developing and launching the strategy and for the Planning Team who will manage the resourcing and tracking of its success.

What strategy scoping involves
Strategy Scoping varies in size considerably across different organisations. For a start-up or a small organisation, it could be completed in a single two-hour workshop. For a large organisation, especially if it operates in multiple markets or territories, strategy scoping can take months, as the views of front-line teams are sampled and aggregated across the organisation. In my own work with clients, I always try to complete strategy scoping in a single 4- to 6-week sprint, culminating in a full day workshop to review the evidence accumulated during the sprint and to make the key strategy scoping decisions. This serves as a great forcing function to get the first round of strategy decisions made in a reasonable timescale.

These key scoping decisions fall into three main categories:

1. Strategy horizon scoping: what is the purpose of this new strategy for the organisation – is it to accelerate our success or save us from failure? Is there an obvious destination or direction of travel that the new strategy should built around? Are there clear boundaries that the new strategy must fit within? Horizon scoping is based on:

  • key insights from situation analysis. I typically use the House of Strategy Model for this analysis.
  • an analysis of strategic aspirations (what are the hopes and dreams that strategy might deliver?), and strategy drivers (are there any burning issues that will need to be resolved by the strategy?)
  • strategy time-horizon. Do any of these analyses lend themselves to the strategy being for a particular duration?

2. Strategy development scoping: what work will be needed to develop the strategy? This can be tackled in a structured way by:

  • identifying the key decisions needed for strategy to be developed. Are they about customers, or competitors, or pricing & finance, or technology & innovation? Are those decisions focused on growth, on transformation & change management or on consolidation and efficiency?
  • identifying the evidence, analysis and insights needed to inform those decisions. Is the evidence already available or do you need to acquire it? Once you have the evidence how easy will it be to analyse? How readily will it yield the insights you need for strategic decision-making? Do any of these decisions depend on expertise you will need to outsource? Or do they depend on finding consensus-of-opinion (or diversity-of-opinion) through a consultation process?
  • identifying the key strategy development jobs to be done. Given the evidence, analysis and insights required, what jobs will need to be done, who will need to do them and how long will they take?

3. Strategy acceptance criteria: how will you know when you’ve developed a strategy that is fit-for-purpose? Just to be clear, because this is often a source of confusion, this is not about the strategic KPIs that will be used to track the progress of the strategy after it is launched. All we are trying to do here is work out whether we have written a good enough strategy for it to be accepted as our strategy and launched. If, for example, we identify in horizon scoping that we need growth, both of revenue and customers, or we will need to reduce staff costs, the acceptance criteria for strategy launch would be thorough, evidence-based projections of costs and revenue with credible methods of achieving them.

My Strategy Scoping Checklist (download free pdf) can be used to prompt discussion of the key scoping decisions described in the three categories above. You can read more about Strategy Scoping in The Strategy Manual where there is a whole chapter dedicated to the principles and practicalities of strategy scoping as a precursor to strategy development.


Strategy snippets you might have missed …

Decision rights for strategy
A new strategy often requires new decisions to be made in unusual circumstances. At worst, this can lead to disruption as ill-informed or unauthorised decisions are made to the detriment of all involved. At best it can lead to delays in decision-making and reduced strategic impetus. Clarifying decision rights around strategy is, therefore, a great thing to do early in the roll-out of a new strategy. The process of delegating decision rights can also provide an opportunity to discuss how strategic decisions ought to be made, what evidence these decisions need to be informed by and who should be consulted. Read more about decision rights at The Ready.

Strategy quotes for 2023
Finally, a couple of quotes that perhaps reflect the uncertainties many are feeling as 2023 gets underway:

“We are entering a year with the widest range of possible outcomes and forecasts.” NOBL’s thoughts at the start of 2023.

“Strategies, no matter how carefully designed, are roadmaps to destinations we have never visited, over territory that has not been carefully explored.” From Charterworks.

“The most important part of a leader’s job is to set in motion the actions today that will build a better tomorrow – in other words, strategy.” From Richard Rumelt, The Crux (2022).


Goal Atlas gives you structured processes and tools to ensure strategy is adopted and impactful across your organisation. Get in touch if you think we might be able to help.


If you enjoy reading this newsletter, don’t forget to forward it to friends or colleagues who might also find it of interest.

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Discover the content of past issues of Strategy Distilled.

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