Distillations in this newsletter: Connecting values with strategy; Social proof; The ‘H’ model of strategy adoption; 5 types of people you’ll meet when implementing change; in praise of Post-it notes.


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.

Would you rather listen to this newsletter as a podcast?


This month …

  • Connecting values with strategy.
  • Lessons for strategy from behavioural economics: Social proof.
  • The ‘H’ model of strategy adoption.
  • Snippets related to strategy you might have missed: A great quote on strategy adoption; the five types of people you’ll meet when implementing change; in praise of Post-it notes.

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

Was this forwarded to you? Sign-up


Connecting values with strategy

Values are important ‘identity marks’ for organisations (an identity mark is a text or graphic signal of the core identity of the organisation: identity marks include vision, mission, values and strategy). Or at least CEOs seem to think they are. In an analysis of interviews with CEOs in Harvard Business Review, three quarters discussed their company’s culture or core values — even when not specifically asked about it.

Donald Sull, Stefano Turconi, and Charles Sull, in a 2020 MIT Sloan Management Review article, analysed the websites and annual reports of 689 large, mainly U.S. organisations and found 82% had official statements of their corporate culture. Of these 72% referred to their company’s culture as values or core values; the other companies used labels such as principles, philosophy, or ideals. Companies typically have between 3 and 7 values and these values are hugely diverse. Over 62 different values were identified with “integrity cited by 65% of all companies, followed by collaboration (53%), customer focus (48%), and respect (35%). No other value was cited by more than one-third of companies”.

The fascinating part of this research was their follow-up to the analysis of values. They compared which values companies espoused with how positively employees talked about those values in the free text of their Glassdoor reviews. Of the nine correlations calculated, all were weak and four were negative, meaning the more prominently a company featured a particular value the more negatively employees rated it.

So, how should we connect values with strategy? Here are two lessons I took away from Sull et al’s research:

  1. Explain what values are for and why they matter. Hubspot (#1 place to work in 2020 according to Glassdoor) explains that “culture doesn’t just help attract amazing people, it amplifies their abilities and helps them do their best work.” Deutsche Bank explains that “by living our values and beliefs … [e.g. integrity and honesty] … in daily interactions with our stakeholders, employees have a critical role to play in helping us to restore the trust lost during the financial crisis.”
  2. Ensure everyone understands what each value means and how it should be applied. Here is how different companies explain how employees ought to be ‘innovative’. Nvidia: “We know our path to discovery will be paved with mistakes. We anticipate and avoid the ones we can. We accept, learn from, and share the ones that occur”. Biogen: “We encourage candor to test assumptions and uncover the best ideas”. Amazon: “Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify”.

Also, don’t forget, we covered the ten elements of organisational culture that mean most to employees in September’s Strategy Distilled Newsletter.


Lessons for strategy from behavioural economics

Social proof

What is it? Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon whereby information about the choices of others tends to give rise to conformant choices in recipients of that information. It is a decision-making heuristic leading us to believe what is good enough for others is probably good enough for me.

Why does it matter for strategy? Social proof often doesn’t make it all the way to the final published strategy document but may play a critical role in the decision-making about what is included in strategy. There are two types of social proof relevant to strategy: what do other people within the organisation think and what have other organisations (our peers or our competitors) done? So, for example, knowing that 72% of the organisation thought that ‘Including customers more in our product development’ was important or very important makes it more likely that customer consultation will be featured in the new strategy. Or, knowing that 4 of our 6 key competitors either had reduced prices or were planning to do so, makes it more likely that price reductions feature in our new strategy.


A new strategy model released from Goal Atlas…

The ‘H’ model of Strategy Adoption

Once your strategy is written, strategy adoption depends on the active engagement and willing commitment of change-makers. The ‘H’ Model of Strategy Adoption is designed to explain this more fully, and demonstrates how to combine the efforts of senior leadership and front-line teams through ‘strategy adoption conversations’. These conversations provide a way of understanding and realising your strategic goals. There are some key ways, suggested by Ed Morrison and colleagues in their book Strategic Doing, that you can make sure these conversations happen effectively:

  1. Have rules for these conversations and make them explicit;
  2. Be clear from the start about intentions, purpose and outcomes;
  3. Make time for the conversation;
  4. Optimise the group size;
  5. Ensure the psychological safety of participants;
  6. Provide conversational leadership.

To find out more, download the ‘H’ Model of Strategy Adoption as a pdf or view it online. You can also see all 20 strategy models released by Goal Atlas so far on our website.

Released under Creative Commons License, all our models are free for you to use in your strategy documents and presentations (attribute to Goal Atlas 2021).


Snippets related to strategy you may have missed …

A great quote on strategy adoption

“The physics of participation is much more like the physics of weather than it is like the physics of gravity” Clay Shirkey

The Five Types of People You’ll Meet When Implementing Change

The lovely people at NOBL have just published this useful thought-provoker (extract copied below and full article here):

  1. Co-Pilots. These are the folks who will go to the mat for you and help you shape your change. Not only that, they have the skills to guide others through the change process.
  2. Champions. They’re inspired by the possibilities of change. In fact, they may already have tons of ideas on what and how things need to change, even if they don’t necessarily have the skills to deliver it (yet). They’re also crucial sources of influence who help rally the troops.
  3. Fence-sitters. They aren’t sure the organization will change—but they aren’t sure it won’t, either. Therefore, they’ll “sit it out” and wait for a sign of which way the wind is blowing before they lift a finger to help. This group accounts for about 70% of your organization.
  4. Skeptics. Skeptics draw their own conclusions, and won’t be convinced by enthusiastic promises of change that go against their personal experience. But they will be open to data, and their analysis and rigor can often transform a good idea into a great idea—or help you avoid a potentially bad one.
  5. Cynics. They actively oppose change, and believe the organization or its leaders can’t change. Cynics and skeptics may initially look similar, but their actions will set them apart: while skeptics look for holes in your idea because they want to help you plug those holes, cynics look for holes so they can make them bigger and sink your idea.

This goes well with McKinsey’s Five Kinds of Strategist (Architect, Mobilizer, Visionary, Surveyor and Fund Manager – in August’s Strategy Distilled Newsletter) and Goal Atlas’s own Six Roles Needed for Strategy Development (Magician, Executive, Advocate, Analyst, Author, Controller).


In praise of Post-it notes

A great list of 13 reasons for loving Post-it notes, from Clive Thompson. It includes such gems as:

  • A Post-it note might last 30 seconds or 30 years – and when you write it you may not know which;
  • Post-it notes let you create physical, visual databases for ideas;
  • Post-It notes have amazing gestural UI – slapping one down on a colleague’s desk, lifting one gently from a crowded whiteboard to contemplate where it belongs or crumpling it and tossing it in the bin;
  • Post-it notes are ‘glanceable’, and thus are a calming type of technology.


Goal Atlas runs workshops and sprints to help your strategy work better 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.

Was this forwarded to you? Sign-up

Share This