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How to design a strategy

Published over 1 year ago • 2 min read

Dear Reader,

Today's question...

Q: What's the design process for a strategy?

First of all, there is no single design process for something as complicated as strategy.

But today, I'd like to share a process for designing strategy.

Any text-based process of strategic design will be reductive. Strategy is non-linear and works on multiple time horizons.

But the design of strategy can have a process. What does that process look like?

I believe that the design of strategy should be a parallel process of research and co-creation.

That’s because a good strategy is based on insights, and strategies should be vetted by stakeholders.

I teach a strategy design process that is a great entry point into strategy work. Here is what that process looks like in a linear form:

The Research Track

Strategy is a decision-making framework that attempts to solve a systemic organizational problem. Since strategy work looks like problem-solving, you can follow a similar process that you might use in design.

Research your strategy with a variation of these steps:

  • Framing the challenge
  • Generating insights
  • Diagnosing the challenge
  • Designing policy
  • Visualizing the strategy
  • Testing the strategy

You may not choose to front load the research phase, and you may jump around between these steps.

Take these process steps as inspiration for possible research activities when designing a strategy.

The Co-Creation Track

A strategy must be a collaborative effort if it is to be helpful. Don’t be Moses, coming down from your research mountain with a list of new commandments for your team.

The strategy should never be a surprise to your stakeholders. Avoid creating a fully-formed strategy that hasn’t been vetted with the team.

Facilitate co-creation of strategy using a variation of these steps:

  • Establishing shared vision
  • Exploring the challenge
  • Framing the diagnosis
  • Exploring solutions
  • Planning the transition
  • Fostering the change

Stakeholders are extremely important in strategy work so don't skimp on the Co-Creation Track.

This dual-track process will vary depending on the organization and the strategic designer involved.

Strategy projects are hard to manage. You can use a Strategy Canvas to manage the work so that you have a place to gather research and work with your stakeholders.

That's the process in a nutshell!

If you want a process specific to UX with more details, watch this talk.

Seasoned strategists will have more sophisticated processes, but this process will be more than enough for your first few strategies.

If you want to learn more about designing strategy, I'm giving a free masterclass this Saturday:

Until next week!

Jeff Humble
Designer & Co-Founder
The Fountain Institute

P.S. Defining UX Strategy, a series of 10 workshops on UX strategy, will be closing on Nov. 18th. If you want to get serious about designing strategy, grab a seat before the course sells out!


This newsletter is an excerpt from an article I first published in March of 2020 about strategic design.

The Fountain Institute

The Fountain Institute is an independent online school that teaches advanced UX & product skills.

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