Institutional strategy development consistently suffers from two flaws:


first, we fail to adequately articulate the richness and complexity of the strategy environment and fail to identify the forces which will buffet and threaten our abilities to achieve our goals.


secondly -- and particularly in fields focusing on social change -- we fail to think rigorously about the appropriate larger goals (the impact which we can in fact achieve), we fail to identify achievable intermediate objectives (the tangible outcomes which will deliver the impact we seek) and we fail to design strategies robust enough to produce these outcomes in the face of pressures and uncertainties of the outside world.


... a simple mental model can help managers avoid both traps:

Working through the elements of the model allows us to:

Our basic mental model for setting direction derives from two sources.

We first encountered the "circle-arrow-circle" model working with Interaction Associates and its sister arm, the Interaction Institute for Social Change (and we highly recommend their training for strategists and change agents).  We modified it with insights gained from working with practitioners of Royal Dutch/Shell's global scenarios methodology.