How often have you faced decisions with multiple options as a team and struggled to move forward? Each option is different, with a unique mix of opportunity. Making things more difficult, each team member brings a unique perspective, and values, to their decision-making. These differences may (often) lead to different preferences. So how do you move forward, together?
A strategy screen can support comparisons of apples to oranges, advancing the discussion in a structured format to remove some of the group dynamics that can complicate team decisions.
Like the Big Questions, the strategy screen is a tool from the La Piana Real-Time Strategy Planning book. The purpose of the strategy screen is to make decision-making clear and explicit across the organization by applying a consistent set of criteria.
Most of the criteria are unique to every organization (their strengths, identity, history, etc.), but often share a few themes. Every screen should start with a question about fit to your commitment statements (purpose, mission, vision, values).
Other common criteria questions relate to strengths (“how well does this leverage our strengths”), capacity (both financial and human), and degree of competition or partnership. A good way to generate questions for your organization is to ask “What do you wish you knew before you jumped in to a decision?”
There are an unlimited number of possible questions, so to keep things manageable we recommend you focus on between 5-10. Often times after a few uses, we notice that some questions simply don’t add as much value as we thought they would. Toss those out – the screen isn’t written in stone – and keep the ones that bring the most insight.
Responses are not just yes or no. Using a gradient of high, medium, low is a simple way to bring some nuance without making the screen overly difficult to use. This makes comparisons across different strategies structured and clear.
We suggest using the screen for all major strategic decisions an organization faces. These are the decisions that shift the direction of the organization. Decisions that impact only a part of an organization, like a single program, may require additional questions more connected to that effort.
The benefits of using a strategy screen, from both our clients’ feedback and our use, is that decision making becomes highly visible and organized. It becomes clear what was considered (the criteria) and what priorities influenced how the decision was made (the responses). This clarity helps teams have better conversations and stronger team alliances. In many cases, the responses to the criteria clarify what activities must happen for the strategy to be successful.
What questions would you ask before making a strategic decision?