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When Strategy Stops Being Slow

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More and more we see the words Agile and Strategy mentioned in the same phrase or title. Tim Leberecht, author of the book “The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself”, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review on how to make your strategy more agile and why decision making doesn’t have to be a slow process.

Leberecht described how strategy, a function of the organizations typically known as slow and involving multi-stakeholders might be blended with sprints, a core agile concept, towards faster decision making on a strategical level. The author mentioned “Google Ventures’ five-day method” as an example of how sprints help bypass bureaucracy or endless debate cycles.

Although he recognizes the value of the typical big-up-front-activities like research or scenario planning, he states that companies have less and less time for them, so their strategy needs to rely on two emerging concepts: vision and improvisation.

Vision incorporates the long-term, if not permanent, purpose and principles of an organization, which serve as the north star for all its actions.

Improvisation suggests a fundamental openness and flexibility at the tactical level — the willingness to explore, experiment, and iterate.


Rooted on those two, Leberecht introduced the vision sprint and how it has helped, for example, LaunchPad on clarifying the strategy for launch a new product. Shortly, the process consisted in:

  • Gathering everyone’s vision
  • Developing and presenting competing visions (both activities only in one day)
  • Refining the concepts and getting board approval (after a couple of weeks)

Two months later, the team was ready to launch the product and, according to the author:

The process worked because we honored the critical design principles of a vision sprint:

  • Introduce constraints, such as an unlikely mix of people, a remote location, a “mission impossible” assignment, a specific task or crisis, a short time frame — or some combination of these.

  • Emphasize the ritualistic nature of the experience. Define a clear beginning, the rules, and a deadline for decision making.

  • Create a safe space that gives all participants permission to be authentic and vulnerable, and creative as a result.

  • Capture every single word that is spoken. Paraphrase, synthesize, and frame in real time. Tell the story as it unfolds through words, drawings, audio, photos, or film.

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