Strategy and Design Tip: Get Clear on what you want before you decide what to do

For decades, the focus of strategic planners has been the creation of measurable activities in the pursuit of a goal. Sounds great. The only trouble is that the “desired outcomes” (of a group) often remain unclear or misaligned. And when desired outcomes are unclear or misaligned, measurable action is unlikely to get people what they want– because they either don’t know what big results they want, or they don’t agree on what those big results should be.

Strategic execution of a plan often stalls or fails because, early in the strategy process, too little time is spent identifying, narrowing, articulating and owning shared outcomes. Before you design what you are going to do, get clear on what you want (desired outcomes). Getting clear and aligned around outcomes helps you:


Aim strategic action at an agreed upon outcome

Determine earlier if your strategic actions are moving you toward the shared outcomes

Adapt strategic action faster if it’s not moving you to shared outcomes

Determine more quickly if you have the wrong (or unrealistic) shared outcome and change it

Link action to outcomes for important stakeholders


It’s easier to talk about action then it is to get clear about outcomes. Outcomes are more challenging to create and require a kind of alignment that tribes often avoid. But, if your tribe is willing to slow down early in the strategy process and get clear about outcomes, it can help you zoom later during execution. It’s worth the work.









  1. Frances Thomas May 4, 2016 at 9:04 am - Reply

    Thanks for helping Symphonic Chorale of SW FL board work through this process last night.

  2. Dave May 4, 2016 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    What a delight to work with you all!

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Written by Dave Fleming