Formulating a strategy is a difficult task – and making it work is even more difficult. The world is changing rapidly and there is a high degree of uncertainty for organizations on how to run their businesses. This degree of uncertainty is not any less when dealing with strategy implementation. In fact, our research has shown that this uncertainty especially applies to strategy implementation.

We identified three categories of uncertainties (you can read more about them here). These are:

  • Uncertainty around strategic objectives and market needs
  • Uncertainty around the ability to execute the strategy
  • Uncertainty around technical feasibility

Through our interviews with senior executives and strategy consultants, we have identified four approaches to address the three kinds of uncertainty. Four approaches which are all well-known within design:

  • Having the user in focus. Strategies should reflect reality. Understanding where we are, where we want to go and who to involve is therefore highly important. Putting the user in focus allows for a deeper understanding of the context, the needs and the competencies it takes to reach the goals. Doing this properly can be a way to address uncertainty around where to go (objectives and market needs) and how to get there successfully (ability to execute).
  • Applying an iterative process. The world is changing rapidly, and the only certainty is uncertainty. No matter how hard we try, we can’t predict the exact future. An iterative implementation process creates the necessary flexibility for adapting to the changes that arise. It’s a way of uncovering risk earlier and having the possibility of handling them before they become too big.
  • Co-creating with users of the strategy. Employees, customers and managers are the driving force in getting the strategy from paper to reality. If they are not on board it’s very unlikely that the change is going to happen. Motivating, involving and mobilizing them is therefore highly important. Co-creation can play a two-fold role in strategy work: 1) it is a way of getting knowledge and inputs from experts, and 2) it is a way of increasing the motivation and commitment to the strategic initiative, and thereby increasing the likelihood of a successful implementation.
  • Prototyping to validate or reject assumptions and hypothesis. Strategies should reflect reality, and prototyping and testing provides reality checks by acquiring knowledge through experimentation. It is a way of validating or rejecting your assumptions and hypothesis about the world, your organization and your strategic initiative. There are many different ways to prototype, and a prototype can be as simple as a piece of paper, and as high-tech as the use of VR to simulate new work routines.

It’s important to note that these approaches are guiding principles. There are many ways of including users, co-creating, iterating and prototyping in your strategic work, and how to use the approaches might change depending on your specific strategy and situation. We are researching in four types of strategic initiatives (read more here) and are currently working on developing different tools to help you in your strategy work. If this is of interest to you, stay tuned for more information as we will post updates, insights and at new tools.