How Do You Figure Out Your High-Level Strategy?

I had an e-mail exchange with fellow solopreneur Stephen Lahey this week about a very cool form he has developed (see: here). This several-page analytical tool is to help other people figure out who their best clients are (and why).

Business StrategyI looked it over, liked it, and then made the remark that I wonder how many people will actually go through the process on their own (some definitely will). I’m a very analytical guy, but I find that many people don’t operate that way and might find a do-it-yourself-process to be unfruitful for them. Alternatives:

– I’ve done a lot of one-on-one brainstorming with individuals, and that typically works well, because of the scheduled focus, and the 3rd-party perspective to help guide the journey.

– I’ve also experienced small group facilitated discussion (say, 4-8 people) which can be really helpful at times for gaining multiple angles on a problem.

– Leading a large group exercise from a stage is perhaps less fruitful – maybe you can move such a group toward a single insight or conclusion, but any more than that is probably impossible. Or not – what’s your experience??

Obviously, we’re not all the same, and that has piqued my curiosity this morning.

What’s your most productive figure-it-out style when you’re trying to get to 30,000-foot thinking? Please share with the rest of us in the comments.

By the way, when trying to figure out strategic business direction, here’s one thing I’ve found to be universally true – when you’ve done a mind dump of what you’ve done and want to do, the answer is almost always there in the puzzle pieces on the table. Usually, there’s something you’ve accomplished in the past that actually is the key piece; OR a creative combination of 2-3 pieces (put together in a new way) yields a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts new direction. True?


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  1. Thanks for the mention, Steve! Yes, a lot of people do want some one-on-one support; but I don’t require folks to purchase coaching in order to get the tool. If your readers are curious and want to learn more about the “Expand and Improve Your Client Base” workbook (and get a free copy) they can do that here:

  2. True. Tell us about your brain dump process. I would love to learn what this is like…. to help others find those pieces to begin with. Perhaps another blog post shall follow? 🙂

    • Dave, when working with others, the brain dump process is a series of questions I ask. It’s never scripted – very free-form – during which I’m picking up key words and themes that constitute the puzzle pieces. My job is to be on the outside looking in, trying to see how things fit. Of course, I’m really not good at it with my own business because, like everyone else, I’m lost in my own forest and can’t see the trees very clearly.

  3. I like having a form. I have a client intake form that I have just started using. So far so good.

    I don’t fill out a ton of forms because I don’t get an actionable payoff at the end. Maybe that’s why I need coaching after I complete these forms.

    • Phil – I must confess that I have reallly mixed feelings about forms, though this is clearly a quirk of my personality. I operate at an intuitive inner-brain-level when doing strategic thinking with others. By all rights, analytical me should love forms…..but I don’t.

  4. Steve,
    Love the method of doing a brain dump and looking at how you can arrange the pieces. Very similar to what I do, and when I’m having trouble, or just not feeling i have the “right” piece, I think of who I know that could help. I then ask them about the one specific piece, not the overall strategy. Almost every time, they provide clarity (I used that intentionally) which helps me complete the process.

  5. One of the better examples I have seen was a combination of Form and Story. It described the development of the Lean Canvas tool. The form is one of the best templates for creating a business plan that i have seen. The combination of the 2 in 1 addressed some of the concerns expressed. Even with this there is something about being in a different environment with a small group that seems to add value for me.

    I view the form as a roadmap so even on its own there is some utility.

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