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Insight 2: Strategy has become that continuous learning process

This is part is a series of six insights into strategy, people and performance, derived from working with my clients in 2013.

Strategy as a learning process is entering the main stream

I have been talking about this for 10 years: now I am seeing it enter the mainstream.  It is not simply about being aware of what is happening, but embedding the learning parts into the organisation.

This year I have seen Boards, executive teams and management teams really engage with this.  Strategy as a continuous learning process.

Those of you that know me know that the strategic learning model in both in my book, Strategy Mapping for Learning Organizations, and in my business card.

The model  describes strategy as a continuous process, connected to the outside world, refining and updating the strategy as you learn from its execution.  It is also a model that defines the conversations you need to have.

More and more, I am seeing organisations adopt versions of this approach, improving the quality of conversation within their teams and importantly between Teams and levels of the organisation.

It also affects how Boards think about their strategy

I talk about the Excitant strategic learning model, in the context of how board governance should work and how they learn.  For this I use Bob Garratt’s Learning Board model.  I have referred clients to this so many times this year and even had them running off to get copies of his book, reporting back that it is already changing how they meet and discuss things.

Put this in the context of the need to monitor the ever changing external world for changes to the context, assumptions and risks to the strategy and it is ever more clear that strategy is no longer an annual process of conception, then execution.

Strategy is a hypothesis that needs to be tested

The other aspect of strategy as a learning process is making it clear that a strategy is a hypothesis to test.   That testing is a process of learning and refining and ultimately changing, once the issue has been solved and the strategy is successful.  This makes a strategic choice just one part of a larger decision making process that tests the quality of those decisions, refine them and learns from them.