Strategy Meets Design Thinking

Top down strategy setting and budgeting (Command and Control)


Traditional strategy and organisational management approaches are focused on creating a big picture strategy to maximise the allocation and impact of a finite set resources (capital, people, time etc.). Top down, centralised planning, with well communicated plans to be executed through rigid hierarchical structures.

Centralised strategy & planning approaches are great for breaking down and coordinating work efforts across large organisations. It suits well when delivering outcomes that require little customer input, but is weak when there is limited information or variability in user preferences. (e.g. Employees don’t really have a choice when it comes to what systems they use, customers can walk away.)

Top down strategic objective setting measured against the 4 quadrants of the balanced scorecard
Traditional hierarchies are efficient at dividing up repeatable work across specialists functions but create inherent conflicts over time.

The problem with traditional business cases & project management.
·       The problem with business cases is that they build very complex financial models (J curves etc) around a number of unquantifiable assumptions. (e.g. does the customer want my product)
·       Project plans keep track of whether or not we are meeting the milestones, are we building the features we said we are going to build.
·       Current project management techniques are focused on the efficiency of what we build but has no bearing on whether we know if anyone will use it. For companies looking to innovate and develop offerings that are not well known (in the market) the dominant question isn’t can it be built, but should it be built.
What can we do about it

·       Reduce waste finding ways of testing products with your customers as early as possible (not build it and see what happens).
·       Within your organisation, sponsor and build islands of freedom to allow safe experimentation (and eliminate the fear of failure).
·       Build an understanding of new measures of process (other than financial burn rate).
·       Build cross functional teams that take out serial dependencies within each iteration.
·       Adopt approaches to deeply understand and empathise with the needs of your customers.
·       Deploy minimum viable products instead of solely relying on experience, intuition and small focus groups.
·       Use the MVP to test critical assumptions that drive the business viability and sustainable of your business idea.
·       Build in management check-points at each iteration to review collected data on customer behaviour and validated learnings in order to decide whether to persevere or to pivot.




Fast paced innovation requires a shift away rigid strategic planning to a user-led approach

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