The Strategy Framework Canvas is useful in helping a strategist match the right strategic framework to the situation. It can also be useful to implementers, including project managers, to sharpen efforts in project scoping, risk management, managing the schedule, identifying and handling stakeholders, and using project metrics.
This post explores the factors that influence the choice of a strategy framework, untangles confusion presented by the plethora of strategic frameworks, and shows areas of impact for project managers.
The Usefulness of Strategic Frameworks
Strategic frameworks are useful, much like a project management template. As a project management template provides a shortcut to developing project plans and other supporting documents, strategic frameworks help guide the process of strategy development, providing a tried and true framework, with vast experience built in, that stimulates you to think through various aspects of a strategic problem.
Strategic frameworks are driven a lot by attributes of your organization and the environment in which it operates. Here are the key considerations that pertain to finding the right framework:
- Your organization – Think about things like corporate culture, business model, leadership style, competitive position, core competencies, and physical and financial assets.
- Your environment – This is sometimes also called your industry, or your arena. Think about the character of the environment in terms of how predictable it is, how malleable it is to being shaped by you or others, and how harsh it is in terms of prospects for growth and profitability.
Strategic frameworks give organizations a compass. However, a compass works consistently in all cases to identify direction. Strategic frameworks, by contrast, can help do the same thing – if you choose the right one.
Specific strategic frameworks are good at different times, under certain conditions. Industries grow in stages, and a different strategic framework may be needed when transitioning from one stage of development to the next. In addition, individual product segment businesses within a company also go through a product life cycle, and different strategy frameworks will work, depending upon the product life cycle stage.
Finally, a diversified business, especially a large one, will find that different strategy frameworks are more appropriate for different businesses. However, one of the unifying factors in larger businesses is a common business model across businesses, and this would imply that similar strategic frameworks across the businesses would make sense.
What Is a Strategic Framework Canvas?
A Strategic Framework Canvas is a guide for choosing among the myriad of different strategic frameworks. It enables you to examine factors in your business environment, as well as in your business, to determine which framework(s) may best help you to develop a viable strategy.
The Strategic Framework Canvas is based on the idea that business environments differ along three dimensions:
- Predictability – Can we forecast the environment with a reasonable degree of accuracy?
- Malleability – Can we shape the environment, whether alone or with partners?
- Harshness – Is the environment going to be survivable – can we make through?
These factors are critical in determining which strategic framework(s) will best apply in your situation. They form the basis for five generic environments that lead to appropriate choices of framework.
The Five Strategy Environments
Using these three dimensions, here are five generic but distinct environments to consider when choosing a strategic framework:.
- Adaptive – A fast moving, rapidly changing environment where you can neither predict nor change what happens. This environment requires agility, and the mantra is “Be fast!” – faster at learning, developing, selling, producing, etc. Frameworks that apply well to Adaptive environments include First Mover Advantage and Dynamic Capabilities.
- Classic – A highly predictable but unchangeable – or very slow to change – environment. The best place to be in a Classic environment is to “Be big” – that is, to have sufficient scale to be a leader in the market. Frameworks that apply to Classic environments include Porter’s Five Forces and the BCG Growth Matrix.
- Renewal – A highly constrained environment, where resources appear to be more expensive than the opportunity can support, or are otherwise severely constrained because of some other condition. The challenge in a Renewal environment is to “Be viable” – to survive. Frameworks that apply to a Renewal environment include transformation and turnaround strategies such as the consolidation endgame curve.
- Leader – An unpredictable environment that can be shaped. This environment needs leadership – a company that can pave the way, where the mantra is “Be the orchestrator.” Strategic frameworks that translate well to Leader environments include the S Curve and Ecosystem Strategy.
- Visionary – An opportunity that you can see – that you can predict and act to change and shape. The mantra in a visionary environment is “Be first” – where you take action based on your vision to take an early lead. Strategic frameworks that are helpful in a visionary environment include Blue Ocean Strategy, Innovator’s Dilemma., and Lean Innovation.
These five are not necessarily the only possible environments, but they do capture characteristics of most environments. There may even be a combination of environments that the organization faces.
I recommend these PM templates (paid link):
Implications for Project Managers
Project managers can benefit from understanding the different dimensions, environments influencing strategy framework choice, and the strategy itself.
Here are a few areas that will be effected:
- Project scoping – When you cannot see clearly, you might be better off scoping down the project, or it might be better to execute a ‘learning project’ to learn something that makes visibility clearer.
- Risk management – There will be project implementation risks related to schedule, project quality, and cost, but there will be other more strategic risks. These strategic risks related directly to the achievement of strategic objectives on the right timing, the right level of accomplishment, and the right positioning versus the competition for future success.
- Schedule – Which elements of the schedule represent critical, must-do milestones, and which are flexible? To what degree can and should the schedule change over time?
- Stakeholder management – Often times stakeholders are limited to those that have functional responsibility for the area affected, and one or more project sponsors. However, thinking strategically, there could be other not-so-apparent stakeholders that could have an influence and stake in the project.
- Project metrics – Devising the right metrics and monitoring them closely is one key to project success. Some projects fail simply because they were measuring the wrong things. Thinking strategically, including being well versed in a variety of strategy frameworks, can help you to identify the right project metrics and set up systems to monitor.
Strategic thinking – and having the versatility to think across strategic frameworks and know which apply – is a highly valuable skill and can help advance your career.
Actions and Resources
The Strategy Framework Canvas provides some structure to the process of choosing a strategic framework. Think about your industry environment and about the internal factors within your organization.
What strategic frameworks are you using, and are they a good fit for your situation?
Resources (includes paid links):
Strategy Framework Canvas 44-slide PowerPoint deck
Strategy Framework Canvas Primer 23-slide PowerPoint deck