Guide #010: How to demystify strategy work and elevate its role within your agency or in-house creative team

Create the conditions on your team for a successful strategy to emerge. Coach your team to develop and maintain an environment that nurtures infant idea.

Create an environment where the full team can participate in strategy work

View the project Strategist, either in title or role on a team, as someone who creates transparent and inclusive processes that allow the full team to participate in strategy work. This approach shifts the role of a Strategist from someone who develops strategic ideas to someone who creates the conditions on a team for a successful strategy to emerge. For example, a Strategist might host synthesis sessions where research materials — interviews, data, customer insights, etc. — can be shared with the entire team while acting as a facilitator to harness team reactions in a format that can add value throughout the entire project.

Identity themes, patterns and a shared vision

As strategy is openly discussed within a project team, the role of the Strategist should be one of listening and pattern recognition. The “strategy person,” regardless of their official title, should constantly be on the lookout for themes, recurring language, consistent pain points, and a shared vision. This is also the goal as research is conducted, artifacts and data are analyzed, and as input or feedback is solicited from stakeholders, customers, users, etc.

Create the space to capture fragile ideas and explore hunches

Strategy work requires an environment that is conducive to nurturing infant ideas. Individuals exposed to strategy work should guard against being overly critical too early while providing the appropriate level of feedback to push ideas forward. Coaching the team to develop and maintain an environment that nurtures infant ideas should be a primary responsibility of the “strategy person.” As early ideas get shared, the “strategy person” should pay attention to their stickiness. How well do these ideas resonate with others? Are they repeated, reinterpreted, or built upon by others? Can these ideas be tied to larger initiatives or concepts? Are they in line with stakeholder values? Do they support a storytelling narrative?

Present strategy and design work together

When presenting strategy work to stakeholders, rather than treat it as a separate deliverable, present it within the context of tactical deliverables. This helps ground strategic ideas with practical examples of how they will come to fruition within the real world. In addition, anchoring conversations in the business problems being solved or user behaviors being encouraged, for example, will focus stakeholders on providing the most valuable feedback.

Demystify strategy work by documenting the process

Help your organization understand how strategy work is managed within projects by documenting the process. Make this documentation visible to the entire organization and offer to present it regularly. For agency teams, this gives the new business process additional resources to explain how strategy work is utilized as a discipline or as an independent offering.

Weave strategic ideas into narratives that currently exist within your project owner’s organization

Strategy ideas should align with the narratives that are already important to your stakeholders. Identify trends within your project owner’s organization and build on ideas that already have momentum.

Share your vision early and widely to address conflicts and create alignment

Few projects have a straight path from concept to execution. It's important to identify the roadblocks that may get in the way of your team's vision as early as possible. Sharing early hunches and fragile ideas in informal settings or small groups again is helpful here. By the time you're sharing with a wider group, the ideas are vetted, the risks are accounted for, and everyone feels a sense of shared ownership.


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