Is your strategy working for you?

You are currently viewing Is your strategy working for you?

by Mark Blackwell, Arkaro (

A little story. Perhaps you might recognise some of it?

Sarah joined a new business team. Pretty soon she was working long hours, just like everyone else, but despite the long hours the numbers were not being hit – and the pressure on the team was building. Sarah had an idea – perhaps if they reviewed the strategy at the beginning of the management meeting they could check if they were doing the right things and make some better decisions if not on track?

Sarah “Does anyone have a copy of the strategy document?”

Joe (Marketing) “. ..Hang on its in my computer somewhere … err sorry that was the one from last year’s budgeting process …. Here we go … found it … this is last year’s… looks like a big file, yep those 200 slides are taking some time to open up”

Sarah “We can’t review all those slides at the beginning of a meeting… is there a summary slide?

Joe “Oh here we go … something about

  • Focus on customers to grow faster than the competition
  • Optimise resources for superior innovation
  • Reduce working capital to best in class levels
  • World leading operational excellence to reduce production costs”

“but aren’t some of these objectives are working against each other?”..

Fred (Finance) …”no it means every function has to work harder and be the best”

Sarah “This is all good but how do we know if we are ‘on strategy’ and doing the right thing?”

Joe “You are right … we all need to deliver the numbers .. the strategy numbers. Remember all those hours we spent predicting revenues and margins by sku for the next 5 years…? Guess it would be good to dig those numbers out of the strategy file and use them!”

Fred “We’ll know we need to make decisions as a team if we are behind!”

So at the next meeting, beautiful charts were created with sales against the 5 year strategy numbers, the annual budget, the new demand forecast, last month’s demand forecast…

Fred ‘So… what number do we have to hit next month then??” … “well not sure … maybe all of them?”

Joe “guess it is not looking good… guess we’ll all have to work a bit harder to make it happen? – not sure what else we can do.”

Sarah sighed … ” This team has invested a lot of time and money on their strategy but we are no further forward. Why is this not working?”

Sound crazy? but I suggest you have been lucky not to have seen at least some of this in your career.

  • Conflicting objectives – that could be objectives for any business
  • An impossible gap between “what to do” and the financial objectives

There looks to be a fundamental problem with strategy in organisations.  Developed by Dr Pete Compo who had seen these types of problem first hand, The Emergent Approach™ to strategy development offers a new process.

One key insight of the Emergent Approach™ is understanding the critical distinction between the aspiration (“What Matters”) and the strategy (the central and unifying rule that guides “What you can do?”).

Strategy Influence Diagram - Arkaro Business Consultants

Compo describes Killer Problem #1 to change and innovation – achieving the aspirations is what matters – but aspirations are not directly actionable. Those familiar with Six Sigma will see a parallel with Y=f(x) where Y is “what matters” and x is “what you can do”. The most important principle of Six Sigma is that “you cannot manage the Y’s”

So in Sarah’s story the problem is focusing on the strategy numbers alone. These are the Y – “What Matters “- Aspiration … simply not actionable alone.

Was the team closer to what you can do with the list on the summary slide? Are these the x’s? the “What you can do?”

  • Focus on customers with short lead times to grow faster than the competition
  • Optimise resources for superior innovation
  • Reduce working capital to best in class levels
  • World leading operational excellence to reduce production costs

No. While all of the statements initially sound good, they may be working against each other. There is a lack of focus by not unifying around one critical bottleneck – and they do not provide real-time information on trade off choices…. And as seen in Sarah’s story simply not workable.

Arkaro is the first affiliate partner to deliver Dr Pete Compo’s Emergent Approach to Strategy™. By working with your teams in Agile-like sprints, Mark Blackwell helps your team create strategy alternatives, choose the best, and establish a dashboard of metrics and triggers to drive execution. 


Instead of the do it for you approach, Arkaro takes the do it with you method ensuring the team has ownership of the strategy but guided by experienced expertise and external objectivity to secure a quality outcome. 

The efficient agile methodology allows Arkaro to support as a trusted partner while the strategy evolves and is implemented. Please contact Arkaro to discuss more.

Dr. Peter Compo author of The Emergent Approach to Strategy
Dr. Peter Compo

Dr. Peter Compo, author of the Emergent Approach to Strategy™ —scientist, engineer, and corporate veteran—spent twenty-five years at E.I. DuPont in a wide range of positions in R&D, product management, supply chain leadership, and business management—including director of DuPont Display Materials and Director of Corporate Integrated Business Management. Coupled with a background in music, Dr. Compo began to see the same adaptive patterns of innovation and successful change in all these areas. He also saw the need for a new approach to strategy and spent seven years integrating the science of complex adaptive systems with strategy theory and practice. The Emergent Approach to Strategy™ is the book he wished he had had at the start of his career.

Mark Blackwell - independent consultant Arkaro
Mark Blackwell

Mark Blackwell founded Arkaro in 2016 following a career in both large and small organisations, covering a wide range of industries across agriculture, food and chemicals. As Global Sales and Marketing Director Mark led the growth of the animal health company Antec International to its acquisition by DuPont. Leadership positions in DuPont developed expertise in Business Development, Innovation, Product Line Management, Integrated Business Planning, Business Productivity and Six Sigma Black Belt Project Management. At DuPont Mark worked with Pete Compo as the ideas forming the Emergent Approach to Strategy™ were developed.  In recent years Mark has been involved in the preparation of the Emergent Approach to Strategy and is the first affiliated partner to deliver to help product line and business teams design and implement adaptive strategies.