The Strategy Sprint

Navigating the terrain between strategy and action is often overlooked. Yet in our experience, an exercise such as the following...

Navigating the terrain between strategy and action is often overlooked. Yet in our experience, an exercise such as the following which focuses on seeing connections and the journey ahead, creates significant clarity in understanding and momentum towards strategic action, enabling teams to deliver better results, faster.

This approach was designed to solve a relatively complex scenario but I believe that thoughtful simplicity crafts success. The framework can be readily applied to anything from personal goals to managing a small team, creating a startup right through to institutional and system change. The power of this method is in the conversation it supports and the clarity it provides very quickly, through focused visual dialogue.

Framework

The process starts at the end, framing key challenges or objectives, then works backwards to finish on immediate actions and support required.

Step 1 – Design Principle or Challenge

The foundation for this body of work was the establishment of 4 key principles defining the future of learning: co-created, connected, personal and integrated. Each participating team was required to embrace one of these principles and frame a focussing question that their work would be built on.

Example: Connected – learning connects with and uses real-world contexts and contemporary issues; and is permeable to the rich resources available in the community and the wider world.

Step 2 – Focusing Question

The question that participants develop lays the foundation to guide their body of work. In essence it creates the why for what they’re doing, and can be constantly referred to as a grounding statement, keeping the focus as any complexity and opinion creeps into the conversation.

the-strategy-sprint-question

Example: how can community learning environments make learning more authentic?

Step 3 – Shared Vision

Shared vision is about creating clarity where there may be ambiguity on core principles, specifically principles that the body of works’ success will be built on. Here we table any items that will require on-boarding for all those who will play a role in achieving our results — and answering the ‘question’.

Shared Vision

Example: Authentic Learning and Community Learning; we need to create a shared understanding of what these mean in concept and practice.

Step 4 – Indicators of Success

The tangible things we will notice when we are successful, qualitative or quantitatively, form our indicators. We ask the question “how will we know we are successful, what will we notice is different?”. We ask participants to think not only about results on numerical scale but importantly the changes in human behaviour.

Indicators for Success

Example: students see the application of their learning to real-world problems.

Step 5 – Projects

Now we get into the detail of how, and regardless whether the work has started or is still being defined, the very fact our session began establishing shared vision it should now become clear how planned or existing projects align to our objectives. This may provide opportunity for participants to prioritise their efforts on projects that will deliver on key objectives.

Projects

Example: re-design teaching practice and physical space for science.

Step 6 – Next Steps

This is not intended to be a forum to develop a full scale project plan but rather to identify the key next steps required to progress each project.

Next Steps

Example: ideation; gather views on the issues of teaching science and identify science industry innovations of practice.

Step 7 – Support Required

Here we identify any external support required to progress the ‘next steps’ that is outside of the project owners immediate control.

Support Required

Example: connections to innovators in scientific practice.

Step 8 – Support Offered

Here we identify key strengths or expertise that participants can offer across projects or sites as a beginning for collaboration throughout the network.

the-strategy-sprint_supportoffered

Example: experience managing and leading change to teaching practice.

Results

Visual representation of the conversation is pivotal to its success. Throughout the conversation participants build meaning by way of a shared story that captures key components of the journey ahead. Facilitated well, participants will walk out of this session with a clear understanding of their direction, what they need to do next and the identification of where they both need and can offer support.

This example discusses that application of Strategy Sprints across program and service design but I see wide application of its value to anything from personal goals or community development, right through to institutional and systems [re]design.

Thank you for reading and I would be very happy to hear about your application of this framework.

the-strategy-sprint_fullbankwall

Context

This approach was designed to facilitate formative workshops on a program with a lofty objective: to alter the practice of an entire profession — education — and ISMOTION were engaged to consult in the formation of the inaugural network as a ‘design hub’ in Sydney, Australia.

Learning Frontiers (LF) is a collaborative initiative of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), with the overarching objective to increase engagement in learning for all primary and secondary schools in Australia; just shy of 7,000 schools.

While Learning Frontiers had laid the programs foundations with four design principles framing the future of education — co-created, connected, personal and integrated — our challenge was to create clarity for the participant schools in their connection of these design principles to a local context, and their connection to the global context of their Design Hub and its greater purpose.

My next article will focus on how we extend the value of this process as a tool for collaboration and program management. Please subscribe below to receive it in your inbox.