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Distillations in this newsletter: Strategy Distilled – The Archive (2021-2024)


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.


This month …

Strategy Distilled – The Archive (2021 – 2024):
A themed compilation of articles and strategy snippets you might have missed from the first three years of Mike Baxter’s monthly newsletter.

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Strategy Distilled – The Archive (2021 – 2024)

In June 2021 I published my first monthly Strategy Distilled newsletter as a means of sharing both my own thinking on strategy and the wealth of ideas I was discovering through my work, research and ongoing discussions with fellow strategists. Since then, the Strategy Distilled archive has amassed over 35 articles and 70 ‘strategy snippets’. That’s so much content that even I struggle to find the relevant bits sometimes! It’s also enough content to have meaningful clusters of articles and snippets on specific themes on strategy. Since I’ve been pulling them together for the new thematic compilation that I’m sharing with my subscribers today (sign up here to download your copy), I’ve found many interesting connections between the ideas I’ve been writing about that I’d never spotted before.

So, the biggest and best compilation of Strategy Distilled is organised around eight themes, which I consider to be not only the most interesting aspects of strategy but also the biggest challenges facing the modern strategy professional.

The themes are as follows:

  1. The Nature of Strategy & Strategic Thinking
  2. Strategy Leadership and Governance
  3. Innovation in Strategy
  4. Strategy Scoping & Development
  5. Engagement and Consultation
  6. Strategic Planning
  7. Values & Culture
  8. Strategy Measurement & KPIs

Here’s an overview of the articles you will find in each theme:

What exactly is strategy, how should we think about it, how should we discuss it amongst ourselves and how should we enable others to make sense of strategy?

  1. Deep design thinking for strategy. If you are sympathetic to the idea that strategic thinking and design thinking have huge overlaps in their methods and philosophy, you should find this thought-provoking.
  2. Strategy as a model of causation. Connecting Gartner’s model of analytics maturity with Judea Perl’s Ladder of Causation with the Futures Cone.
  3. Strategy flywheels and strategic synergy. Not only a way of visualising strategy but also a way of driving compound gains from strategy.
  4. A new definition of strategy. A great way to delve deep into the nature of strategy is to try to define it and then explain / justify that definition. Read this article and try it for yourself.
  5. Strategy as design thinking. An earlier and shorter version of ‘Deep design thinking for strategy’ (see above).
  6. The triple diamond model of strategy represents strategy as a series of iterations of divergent thinking followed by convergent thinking. This connects to strategy as design thinking (see above).
  7. Can Ikigai reveal the four deficiencies of strategy? Does your strategy define what your people love doing, what they are good at, what the world needs and what you can get paid for?

Strong and committed leadership is vital for effective strategy, as is good governance, even though the latter is talked about much less.

  1. Spring-cleaning organisational debt. An exception to the rule that strategy is distinct
    from business-as-usual, with Google’s ‘Simplicity Sprint as an example.
  2. A lesson in strategic tactics. 1. Augmenting the collective IQ of the organisation, 2. improving how we improve and 3. ‘bootstrapping’ – equipping teams and individuals
    across the organisation with the tools they need to improve how they work without the
    need for any other form of support. All from Douglas Engelbart.
  3. Strategy governance from the boardroom to front-line teams. Introducing the idea
    of participatory governance.
  4. The perils of hedging strategy. Hedging your bets in strategy is almost as bad as not
    having a strategy at all.


  1. How to factor deep uncertainties … like AI … into your strategy. Develop a sufficient understanding of the uncertainty to enable decision-making; share fears and concerns; agree coping tactics; commit to experimentation.
  2. Managing innovation within strategy. Great ideas from Linda Hill, suggesting that the key to maintaining innovation within organisations is having a strategy that facilitates creative abrasion, creative agility and creative resolution.


  1. Protocols for strategy. A protocol ‘is a simple description of how, in principle, to approach a particular challenge in a way that will produce good enough outcomes, most of the time’. I find this a really thought provoking way to think about the nuts and bolts of most strategies for most organisations. This is miles away from the big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs) that make up the stuff of legends in the world of strategy. But, for most organisations, a BHAG strategy would terrify the living daylights out of their Board. A good strategy is more often a way to enable more people across the organisation to make better decisions more of the time.
  2. Overcoming the complexity of strategy. A quick primer on complexity theory, four reasons why strategy is complex and three key ways to manage this complexity.
  3. How to think big in strategy. A critical success factor in strategy is to make big moves, focusing resources in a limited number of places where they will make most difference. Making no bold moves is probably the most dangerous strategy of all. Wise words from Bradley, Hirt and Smit’s book ‘Strategy beyond the Hockey Stick’.
  4. The case for strategy being limited to a handful of high-level goals. Advice to the
    CEO who thinks their 30-page pdf is a great strategy.
  5. The case for strategy scoping. The most important process in strategy that hardly
    anyone ever does.
  6. Strategy destination or strategy aspiration? Be careful how you label ‘where-your-strategy-is-going’. You might wish to be definitive about its destination – this is where we will end up once our strategy has succeeded. Or you may wish to be a lot more cautious and be clear about your direction of travel but leave the particulars of where you will end up unstated.
  7. Twelve strategy questions … with resources to help you find answers. A quick checklist to make sure your strategic thinking covers all the important issues.

As you will see, I’ve written quite a lot about this. That’s because I think it is a really important ingredient for strategic success and also because it isn’t done well in many organisations.

  1. Engagement: A missing ingredient in too many strategies. This is probably the one
    to start with. It provides a primer on the importance of engagement, the key requirements for achieving good engagement with strategy and three actions to secure that engagement.
  2. Strategy is for everyone. Resources to help you explain to others in your organisation that strategy is an organisation-wide endeavour.
  3. Justifying stakeholder consultation in strategy development.
  4. Boosting collaborative skills for strategy. I developed the STEER framework whilst
    working with a consultancy client.
  5. Engaging middle managers in strategy. Key lessons from NOBL on how to prevent the
    ‘frozen middle’ from slowing, or stalling, strategy adoption.
  6. The case for strategy workshops. Strategy workshops are a great way to engage
    stakeholders in either the development of a new strategy or the adoption of an existing one.


  1. How strategy actually works. Thoughts on the practicalities of actually ‘doing’ strategy.
  2. Separating Strategy from Strategic Planning. In my view this is a foundational issue in strategy. This article gives a concise explanation of the idea and explains what can go wrong if you fail to make the separation. It also contains links to delve deeper into the topic.
  3. Five strategy lessons from Amazon. Including ‘Culture – made visible’ and ‘Painstaking planning and measurement’.


  1. Building a writing culture for strategy. The writing culture that has become part of the mythology surrounding Amazon’s ways of working is surprisingly valuable when you delve deeper.
  2. The difference between core values and ‘what we care about’. Based on a post by Nir Eyal, author of the excellent ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products’. Values, he suggests, are more forward-thinking than simply reactions to the immediate moment – if someone can take it away from you, then it’s not one of your values.
  3. Core Values … and how they underpin strategy and organisational culture. The announcement of my new book on core values (Amazon UK, Amazon USA), published in January 2023.
  4. The role of values in strategy and the rise of people strategies. As leadership focuses less on ‘command and control’ and more on direction-setting and facilitation, so front-line teams will be less micro-managed by the executive, and hence need to
    have strong values and tangible cultural norms to guide their decision-making.
  5. Connecting values with strategy. Research by Donald Sull and colleagues into 689 large, mainly U.S., organisations, and how they presented their values.


  1. Leading and lagging indicators as strategy metrics. Definitions and examples – a good primer on strategy KPIs, to make sure you get the basics right.
  2. Strategy KPIs: avoiding the tyranny of measurement. A quick read on a trap to avoid in using strategy KPIs.
  3. Protocol for ‘Selecting Strategy KPIs’. The example I use in my broader article on Protocols for Strategy is a protocol for checking that the strategic KPIs you are thinking of using are good enough.

I hope that by organising the content of my Strategy Distilled newsletters into these eight strategy themes it will find new readers and become more accessible to those who have come across it before. The 187-page PDF compilation, with the entire archive and links to all the articles and snippets, is free for every subscriber to Strategy Distilled – sign up now for instant access to the PDF (we value your privacy – unsubscribe at any time). Enjoy!


Goal Atlas works on all aspects of strategy with leaders and teams in any organisation and across disciplines. Get in touch if you think we might be able to help.


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