Developing Organizational Strategies

Part of the strategic planning process is developing organization wide strategies. These strategies express how you will compete in your market.

According to strategy guru Michael Porter, “Competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.”

In this step of the planning process, you are using the synthesized information in the SWOT, your mission, vision and competitive advantages to articulate the organization-wide strategy or strategies that will guide goal and action planning – from where you are now to your vision.

Richard Rumelt, the author of “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy,” helps us apply Porter’s definition and summarizes the kernel of strategy like this:

  1. Diagnosis of the situation. What is going on here? A good strategic diagnosis does more than explain the situation; it also defines the domain of action. You accomplished this during the SWOT process.
  2. Choice of an overall guiding strategy to address the “diagnosis.” Like guardrails on a highway – it directs and constrains action without fully defining its containment. It tackles the obstacles identified in the diagnosis by creating or drawing upon sources of advantage. This is the intended outcome during this phase of the planning process.
  3. Design of coherent, coordinated action. The key word here is “coordinated.” Goals and actions at various levels of the organization are developed in concert with the guiding strategy. You will develop these in subsequent steps.

Examples of good strategies:

  • Starbucks: To build the brand one cup at a time, based on three key ingredients: the quality of the coffee, the retail stores, and selective brand extensions.
  • The Boy Scouts of America: Consistently delivering the youth experience to a growing membership base.
  • The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada: To move toward economic development and to increase the base of companies contributing to the region’s measurable quality of life to ensure long-term vitality of the community.

How to Develop Organizational Strategies with Your Team

This step in the process can be confusing and tough for individuals to understand. The smaller the group the better to think through the following exercise:

1. Write a diagnosis, which is basically a summary of the SWOT. If you had to describe your current situation to an outside Board of Directors, what would you say in 2 minutes?
2. Review your competitive advantages and vision. Clarify if needed.
3. Develop a statement that explains your approach or method addressing the current situation to achieve your vision. Good strategy is not just what you are trying to do, but it is also why and how you are doing it.

The Bottom Line

The word “strategy” is often confused and overused. It is helpful to think about it in the following three levels:

  • Overall Strategy: This level answers the foundational question of what you want to achieve. Is it growth, stability, or retrenchment? Ultimately, this is why you are putting a plan together in the first place.
  • Organization-Wide Strategy: This level focuses on how you’re going to compete. Will it be through customer intimacy, product or service leadership, or lowest total cost? What’s the differentiation based on? This is the level addressed in this step of the planning process.
  • Market-Level Strategy: This strategy level focuses on how you’re going to grow. Will it be through market penetration, market development, product or service development, or diversification? We’ll address this during goal setting.

For a more in depth look at how you can identify your unique organization-wide strategy, watch this video.


One Comment

  1. Derek says:

    Very helpful indeed…thanks for sharing

Leave a Reply to Derek Cancel


What is 11 + 14 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
All fields are required.

Free Guides & Resources

Setting OKRs that Work

A FREE downloadable guide and canvas to build Objectives and Key Results.

SWOT Assessment Guide

A FREE downloadable guide and canvas to complete a SWOT analysis, synthesize it into Competitive Advantages, and then use your SWOT to create SMART goals.

Guide to Create KPIs with 100 Example Metrics

A FREE downloadable guide to learn the basics of Key Performance Indicators with 100 example metric sources for ever department of your organization.

Free Guide for Writing Better SMART Goals

Download the FREE guide to learn how to create goals that have impact in your organization.

Free Guide to Build a Growth Strategy

A FREE downloadable guide and canvas to create a growth strategy that clearly defines where you play and how you’ll win.

Goals/OKR Cycle Guide

A FREE downloadable guide and canvas to establish a quarterly rhythm for OKRs and Goals.

OKR Essentials Cheat Sheet

Download the free cheat sheet to guide you through building and refreshing OKRs.

Join 50,000 Other Leaders Engaged in Transforming Their Organizations

Subscrbe to get the latest agile strategy best practices, free guides, case studies, and videos in your inbox every other week.

We Believe in Empowering Teams to do Amazing
Work, Consistently and Passionately

Success isn’t a list of flashy logos. It’s about helping anyone who wants to lead a great organization.
If that’s you, join our list of clients – you’re in good company:

Armen EZR Multnomah RHA SEO Monitor
Chobani Cisco Armen KIA Patagonia
Concordia College Davenport Fairbanks St. John's Washoe County School District
Boys and Girls Club BSA Cancer Society Maryland Food Bank Make A Wish
CMPD Long Beach San Francisco City of Sparks Washoe County