Professor Gregory  Bunch from Chicago Booth School  on Strategic Thinking and Implementation

Recommended Methodology for CEOs

The first step is to decide whom to involve:

  • Do you want to develop the strategy alone?
  • Or, do you plan to involve others?
  • Get key people together in one place
  • The process often takes about 5 to 6, half-day sessions spread over a few weeks
  • Orient your team to the goals and the process. Explain that this is a strategic thinking It is not a strategic planning exercise, as such. Strategic thinking is foundational to planning and needs to precede the planning.

To facilitate this yourself, you may want to walk them through the key foundations and frameworks, as below:


Three Keys to Strategic Thinking

  • Superman X-Ray Vision: What is working & What is broken? Scanning for new opportunities, Threats & anomalies
  • Asking Great Questions: Think like a detective; Go to where the customer uses the product service/offering. Ask great questions, use common sense and logic.
  • Define the Purpose: Turn Dust to Gold; stay focused on the purpose of business

 Four Basic Questions for Developing a Growth Strategy

Q#1 Why are we great?

  1. Make a big list; anything that is great, good or that you are proud of. Each participant should individually compose a list. This avoids groupthink
  2. Categorize similar items; bucket them
  3. Ask, “Does our customer care (about this reason why we think we are great)?” “Does our customer consider this of value?” “Does he/she want to pay for this?”
  4. Ask, “In the mind of our customer, are we unique? What differentiates us, in a valuable way, from the customer’s alternatives?”
  5. Are we being honest with ourselves? Have we challenged our confirmation bias?

 Q#2  What is our competition doing?

Analyze the competition by writing Q#1 for each major competitor. Pay attention to classic incumbents. Give special attention to new entrants who may not be that big today but have a disturbing growth trajectory.

 Q#3  What data are fascinating?

Ask each participant what numbers they watch, what data they find fascinating. What data can help us see the future? Try to find data that relate to each of the reasons why we are great

 Q#4  What are the Powerful Patterns that drive our business or industry?

Do the same as #3 above, get each person to talk about the powerful patterns that they look for. Get the folks talk about the key patterns for their function or market. Then talk about patterns that affect the larger organization. You will have a long list that you will have to pare down to what really counts.

Five Insights from Decision Science

  • Representation is key to solving the problem
  • Patterns solve puzzles
  • Experts have expanded memory in their domain of expertise
  • Experts see more than novices
  • Experts conduct deliberate practice (10000 Hours+ Practice)

Implementing Strategic Thinking

The strategic thinking process needs to be memorialized; incorporated at some level into the strategic plan/management plan/annual operating plan. Be careful about writing down and publishing your strategy. Documents leak. Will your competition gain an unfair advantage if they know your strategy? Sometimes they will. Sometimes it doesn’t matter because the key is in the execution.


Remember that this element is actually management, not the strategy. A strategy is a decision; management is doing the work.

  1. Step one is to devise a great strategy.
  2. Step two is to write it down.
  3. Step three is to get everyone excited about it and ready to go.
  4. Step four is just to manage your way through the process of whatever changes you are doing.


Copyright © GREGORY D. BUNCH



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