Strategy that Works

Rethinking the strategic process

Jurriaan Kamer
4 min readJan 16, 2024


When looking at my client’s strategic plans, I often encounter so-called strategies that are:

  • a long list of conflicting priorities
  • not containing any bold trade-offs
  • not defining the challenge or critical area of focus
  • based on a belief that only a positive attitude is enough
  • lacking clarity on what to change in everyone’s day-to-day decisions
  • lacking how the organization’s way of working should change to achieve it

And the biggest problem of all is the use of ‘fluffy words.’ Often, this is a result of many days of wordsmithing to try to make everyone happy. For example:

“G.M. is a multinational corporation engaged in socially responsible operations, worldwide. It is dedicated to provide products and services of such quality that our customers will receive superior value while our employees and business partners will share in our success and our stockholders will receive a sustained superior return on their investment.”

What do you think this strategy will do? In any case, it won’t help drive any decisions in the organization. A strategy is all about deciding what to do and what NOT to do.

What good looks like

by Virpi Oinonen

To have a strategy that can be successfully executed in this highly complex world, we need these shifts:

“A strategy is not a todo-list. It’s an integrative set of choices that positions your organization in a way that it can outperform competitors in a chosen playing field.” — Alex Nesbitt

Ideally, an effective strategy contains:

  • simple language, easily understood by everyone in the organization
  • clarity on what people can do to implement it in their day-to-day decisions
  • perspectives from the ‘edge’ of the organization, not just the leaders
  • changes to the organization’s capabilities or ways of working
  • a diagnosis, describing the nature of the challenge we’re responding to
  • a connection to customer needs and decision drivers
  • explicit trade-offs to know what we are deprioritizing
  • a set of explicit hypotheses that we are testing
  • a rhythm with feedback loops to steer continuously

Enter Adaptive Strategy

Below, I will lay out the adaptive strategy process that my colleagues and I have successfully used over the years to get clients unblocked.

It’s based on three main activities that should happen continuously and feed into each other: Sensing, Choosing, and Executing.

🌡️ Sensing:

  • creating situational awareness by asking: what is going on?
  • what are trends? (economy, nature, tech, society, industry, government)
  • what is going on with our stakeholders, suppliers, and partnerships
  • what are our customers’ needs and decision drivers?
  • what are our competitors offering?
  • what possible futures can we imagine? what risks and opportunities may emerge?

When sensing, invite perspectives from the ‘edge’ of the organization. And use Customer Discovery and Scenario Planning techniques.

Output: a Diagnosis, describing the nature of the challenge (obstacles and opportunities) in simple terms.

🎯 Choosing:

  • in response to what we are sensing, what will we do?
  • what offerings, capabilities, or partnerships do we need to create?
  • what changes to our organization’s ways of working do we need?

Output: Strategic Intent: an inspirational, meaningful, concrete, and measurable guiding policy that will help people decide what to do and what not to do.

Here are a few examples of strategic intent statements:

  • “Put 1,000 songs in your pocket” (Apple’s new iPod)
  • “Develop a self-driving capability that is 10x safer than humans through massive fleet learning” (Tesla’s Autopilot)
  • “Build 150 affordable, green, storm-resistant homes.” (Make it Right Foundation, in response to storm Katrina in New Orleans)

🚀 Executing:

  • 90 Day Outcomes: what outcomes must we achieve to realize our strategic intent?
  • Strategic Trade-offs: how do we prioritize? what will we NOT do? Using even/over statements.
  • Steering Metrics: how can we measure if we’re getting closer to achieving our strategic outcomes?

And finally, a Strategic Operating Rhythm: a set of interconnected, intentionally designed meetings that create forward momentum. During these meetings, participants regularly review progress on the strategic intent, intermediary outcomes, and steering metrics.

Final words

A good strategy is fractal, meaning the three activities happen at every level of the organization. Let teams pick their own strategic intent and outcomes based on the ones that lay ‘above’ them.

In my upcoming book, I will cover Adaptive Strategy in more detail. Subscribe to my newsletter to stay updated.

At Unblock, we help future-oriented leaders increase their ability to make an impact. Contact us if we can help you advance your goals.



Jurriaan Kamer

Org design & transformation | Author of ‘Formula X’ | Speaker | Future of Work