13-15 June 2018

Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh

Let’s talk about strategy: what it is, why it matters and how to do it well

Session type:

Session duration:
60 minutes

Presented by:

Sophie Dennis


About this Workshop

The word ’strategic’ is often met with scepticism. But service design is at its most valuable when shaping organisational strategy. Peter Drucker once observed: “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all”.

Strategy is how you avoid this. A sound strategy tells you where you are going, and sets out a high-level, achievable plan to get there. And strategy combined with service design ensures the destination delivers maximum value to both users and the organisation. A clear strategy, underpinned by service design, is how you make sure anyone can decide what the most valuable things are to work on.

Yet bad strategy documents abound: massive tomes, years in the making (during which the organisation has continued to do what it perhaps should not have been doing at all), full of platitudes, unattainable visions or uninspiring lists of mundane tactical objectives. Service blueprints gathering dust in drawers, or slowly fading on a forgotten wall. It makes it easy to pooh-pooh strategy, dismissing it with another Drucker aphorism, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, or the mantras of “strategy is easy, tactics are hard” and “the strategy is delivery”.

Using real-world examples of successful discovery and strategy projects, we’ll explore a simple framework for understanding what makes a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ strategy, and discuss how we can reclaim strategy, do it well, and get the support we need to translate it into action.

In the first part of the workshop we’ll explore:

  • the difference between vision, strategy and tactics
  • how to hit the ‘Goldilocks point’ with strategy: not so visionary you fail the "yeah right" test, not so mundane you fail the "so what?" test
  • the benefits of good strategy and why it's essential to becoming agile
We’ll then look in more detail at:

  • how to structure a discovery phase including team structure, activities and outcomes
  • the secret art of engaging with stakeholders, avoiding big surprises to get the support and buy-in you need to turn good ideas into action
  • the real benefits of service and experience mapping
  • how to structure your findings and present them for maximum stakeholder impact, including crafting problem statements, design principles and briefs
This will be an interactive workshop, with a number of exercises for participants and plenty of time for Q&A. You'll have the opportunity to share your own strategy challenges, and get tricks and tips both from the speaker and other participants.

You will be able to apply what you learn whether you’re developing the overarching strategy for a whole company, for a particular product or service, or delivering a brand, content or customer experience strategy. Culture may still eat strategy for breakfast, and implementation may still be the really hard part, but with a good strategy behind you you’ll have a lot more chance of succeeding.

About the Speaker

Sophie is a freelance consultant and coach specialising in service design and product strategy. She helps organisations deliver better services to customers by putting user needs at the heart of their digital strategy, and by integrating user-centred design into agile delivery practices.

Currently leading work to transform the information architecture of NHS.UK, she has over 15 years' experience working with multi-disciplinary teams on strategic content, design and development projects. She's led ambitious user research and discovery programmes, defined digital strategies for major public and third-sector organisations, and built high-performing teams able to deliver high-quality user-centred digital services at pace.

She’s worked for, among others, Public Health England, the Department for Work and Pensions, the National Trust, Land Registry, Bristol City Council, the University of Surrey, Jisc and the Office for National Statistics, and world-leading experience design agencies CX Partners and Nomensa.


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