Distillations in this newsletter: Boosting collaborative skills for strategy; Who knows about your strategy?; Problem-solving 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 …

  • The STEER framework to boost collaborative skills for strategy
  • Snippets on strategy you may have missed: What if You had a Strategy and None of Your Employees Knew About It?; McKinsey’s Seven Step Problem-Solving Process

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The STEER framework to boost collaborative skills for strategy

Most strategies depend on colleagues across the organisation working together in ways they are not accustomed to. Yet how often are collaborative skills boosted to help the strategy have its intended impact? To address this, I have developed a new practical framework to boost collaborative skills called the STEER framework (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. The STEER framework to boost collaborative skills for strategy

The STEER framework features four objectives:

  1. Surface the importance of collaboration.
    Managers in most organisations tend to remain in their own lane; venturing outside it costs time and effort as well as incurring risk. Collaboration must, therefore, be made to appear worthwhile. So, make sure, whilst introducing or reviewing strategy, that the need for collaboration is surfaced in the discussion. It may be that strategy simply won’t work without collaboration. Or it may be that strategy, worked on collaboratively, will have more impact. Be clear why collaboration is needed. Work through the logic or the evidence showing why collaboration is necessary. Managers who take personal ownership of the need to collaborate are much more likely to commit to collaboration than those who are merely told it is needed. It is also important to bring deeper issues to the surface. What do people feel about collaboration? What experiences have they had of both good and bad collaboration? Give people the opportunity to share attitudes and beliefs and then let them discuss how to make collaboration work better.
  2. Train people to collaborate better.
    There are two types of training needs to think about:
    a. Awareness training – this involves raising awareness of the things that good collaboration requires, such as:
    i. strong social awareness (e.g. recognising that different individuals have different communication abilities and different learning styles);
    ii. good communication skills (e.g. the ability to describe a challenge clearly and specify the collaboration needed to resolve it);
    iii. active willingness to share knowledge and offer solutions, whilst recognising the contributions of others.
    b. Skills training – this involves training individuals and teams in the tools and processes that can be used to help people collaborate better, such as:
    i. 360-degree reviews and how to do them well;
    ii. how to audit a collaborative process;
    iii. negotiation and conflict avoidance/resolution skills.
  3. Embed collaboration into ways of working.
    Where individuals are expected to collaborate on a strategic project, make sure they are briefed together. Make the processes, tools and data needed to do the work available to all collaborators. Provide shared working spaces, both physical and digital. Make sure collaborators have enough time to dedicate to their joint project; big differences in the time available to work on a project usually results in different levels of ownership and responsibility. Where possible, encourage collaborators to take personal ownership of different sub-goals, so they can get recognition for their individual efforts on some of the work. Always try to get collaborators to report their progress together. Ensure that reports and presentations credit all collaborating individuals. Where possible have the line managers of each collaborator in attendance for key presentations of their work.
  4. Evaluate and Refine collaborative efforts.
    Whenever a collaborative project is reviewed, discussion should cover the facts of the collaboration: who is doing what, how they are working, both individually and together, and which aspects of the collaboration are working well and which are struggling. When the individuals involved in collaborative projects are performance-reviewed, their collaborative achievements should always feature in that review. Make it clear that good collaborative skills, a genuine commitment to collaboration and evidence of productive outcomes from collaboration are all valued traits for progression and promotion within the organisation.

The STEER framework was inspired by:

  1. Deb Mashek’s 2022 article ‘Collaboration Is a Key Skill. So Why Aren’t We Teaching It?’ in MIT Sloan Management Review (June 23, 2022 Reprint #64111)
  2. Claire Scoular, Daniel Duckworth, Jonathan Heard & Dara Ramalingam’s 2020 report ‘Collaboration: Skill Development Framework’. Australian Council for Educational Research (download pdf).


Snippets on strategy you may have missed

What if You had a Strategy and None of Your Employees Knew About It?
So asks Prof Timothy Devinney of Manchester Business School. This was prompted by his research showing that “70% of employees could not identify their employer’s publicly presented corporate strategy when compared to its three major competitors”.

The good news is that some companies are better that others in having their strategies known by their employees. Their secrets seem to lie in three key areas:

  1. They feature strategy in training … a lot. This is probably due in part to some sort of rote memorisation effect (tell people the same thing often enough and they will end up remembering it) and also a strategy contextualising effect (the more that individuals see how strategy matters to different aspects of their working lives, the more meaning it will have and the more they are likely to remember and apply it).
  2. Perhaps most obviously, connecting strategy to recognition and reward during performance appraisal does wonders for strategy recall. This could be quite general (‘Describe how your work has contributed to the organisation’s strategic goals’) or very specific (‘Provide evidence of how your team has cut its carbon footprint, contributing to the organisation’s aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030’).
  3. They recognise that some employees are more influential than others in spreading the word about strategy. Middle managers are particularly important in this regard.

McKinsey’s Seven Step Problem-Solving Process
A great deal of strategy is about problem-solving. Elements of McKinsey’s problem-solving process are particularly relevant for strategy.

  1. Define the problem clearly and concisely. Describing the problem context is critical for subsequently determining how likely the proposed strategy is to resolve it.
  2. Use logic trees to disaggregate the problem. Break the problem down into a cascade of sub-problems and sub-sub-problems. The resulting logic diagram can then be translated into a corresponding cascade of goals and sub-goals to solve each of the problems and sub-problems. This logic tree of goals is a strategy map.
  3. Prioritise rigorously. Which part of the logic tree is likely to yield best, fastest, most efficient (pick whichever one best suits your needs) results?
  4. Produce a work plan. This is where thinking turns into action. Who needs to do what to tackle this problem and its component parts? How can we bring stakeholders along with this plan? Are we sure we’ve got executive commitment to the plan?
  5. Problem analysis. What analysis needs to be undertaken to crack the problem? Problem analysis corresponds to the divergent thinking phase of strategy development (Learn more about divergent and convergent thinking for strategy development in May’s Strategy Distilled newsletter).
  6. Solution synthesis. How do we pull together insights from analysis in order to synthesise a solution to the problem? Solution synthesis corresponds to the convergent thinking phase of strategy development.
  7. Solution communication. Problems of any complexity are rarely solved once by a single person. Typically, they need to be solved again and again across organisations. This requires lots of people to be able to firstly recognise the problem and secondly know how best to solve it.



    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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