Eating our own dog food (2/n): The strategy review’s assumptions

Update: This has become a series:

  1. Eating our own dog food (1/n) Our outside-in strategy review
  2. Eating our own dog food (2/n): The strategy review’s assumptions (this post)
  3. Eating our own dog food (3/n): Harvesting

Graham Hill asks in response to Monday’s Eating our own dog food (1/n): Our outside-in strategy review (OI-SR):

Competitors? (source –

Great question! 

The five main questions of our outside-in strategy review (OI-SR) are worded to be non-prescriptive – to the point of generative – but that doesn’t mean they don’t hide some assumptions. Some were called out in that initial post but there are others. Moreover, identifying assumptions like this is a really helpful facilitation technique; through them the question can be unpacked and the conversation encouraged to unfold productively.

Here in full is the relevant passage from the forthcoming 2nd edition:

Assumption 1 (the first of three) is that “reaching the right customers, meeting their strategic needs” is actually worth talking about. It usually is, but it doesn’t hurt to check! And this key phrase begs three further questions:

  1. Who are those “right customers” ?
  2. What does “reaching” mean for us here?
  3. And to those “strategic needs”(their needs, our strategy – the needs that help define our mission): What are they, and how will we know that we’re meeting them?

Assumption 2 is that there is a meaningful “when”. Is there a timeframe in which those customers and their strategic needs will coincide with our ability to reach and meet them?

Assumption 3 lies in the “we” of that sentence. Why us? Why not a competitor? And for an internal strategy review, why not another organisational unit, outsource even?

Bringing those back together, it should be clear that this single question combines a stimulating and potentially provocative generative image with concepts of positioning, timing, and competition. Not the last word on mission-oriented and multi-agent competitive strategy[i], but a start!

[i] Or in other words, manoeuvre strategy, although that term is a little militaristic for some tastes. An excellent book on the corporate form is written by friends of mine: Patterns of Strategy, Patrick Hoverstadt & Lucy Loh, (Routledge, 2017)

To Graham’s question, let me address assumption 3 in the context of tomorrow’s review. Why us? Why not a competitor?

I see two main competitors to Agendashift:

  1. Other engagement models
  2. Old-school change management

Two quite distinct categories, the former representing a paradigm shift with respect to the latter. OpenSpace Agility is our most notable competition in the engagement model space, and we complement each other far more than we compete. Our respective communities overlap significantly, and there is real innovation happening right now in that intersection.

Our challenge with old-school change management is helping people understand its limitations. It is so entrenched that people still regard as “doing it properly” a model that fails repeatedly when applied to adaptive rather than technical challenges – change that’s about culture, leadership, innovation, and yes, engagement. You don’t upgrade your organisation like your upgrading your email server!

This is well understood by the workshop’s participants – Agendashift partners – for whom an important motivation for joining is the contrast between the two paradigms. Much of the challenge for the rest of tomorrow’s review lies in making sure that not just our products and services but also how we organise ourselves best amplifies that message.

Next: Eating our own dog food (3/n): Harvesting


Tomorrow’s workshop below is nearly sold out but I’ve added another for early May. Keeping April free for book-related stuff!

All the usual discounts apply: repeat visits (not uncommon), partners, gov, edu, non-profit, country, un- or under-employment, bulk orders. If you think that one might apply to you, do please ask. Many of those considerations apply to private workshops also.

For the Deep Dive especially, if you think that you might become an Agendashift partner, partner discounts make it well worthwhile to get on board before you sign up to the workshop.

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