Mastering the First Critical Strategic Question–Part 2


The second part of Terry Schmidt’s book Strategic Management Made Simple focuses in on the relationship between the four critical strategic questions and how they are captured visually in the Logical Framework approach.   As a review from the first part of his book which introduced them, those four critical strategic questions are:

–What are we trying to accomplish and why?

–How will we measure success?

–What other conditions must exist?

–How do we get there?

The first chapter of this second part focuses in on the first critical strategic question, “What are we trying to accomplish and why?”   In the last post, I discussed how the Logical Framework approach can be used by the project team to discuss the various Objectives of the project:  the Outcomes (what the project will create), the Purpose (the business need of the project), the Goal (the strategic interest of the organization in doing the project), and the Inputs (the steps needed to achieve the Outcomes).

This post will discuss how the Logical Framework approach can be used by the project manager to gain stakeholder collaboration.

1.   Problem Analysis

Rather than casting the project in terms of its Outcomes, one creative approach to discussing a project with stakeholders is to cast it in terms of a solution to a problem.    This kind of problem analysis can be used to discuss how the problem affects the stakeholder, because that will show the stakeholder that he or she will also be affected by the solution which the project will create.

2.  Logical Framework approach

Here are a list of questions that Terry Schmidt gives in his book that he suggests you ask your stakeholders in discussing the problem that your project is designed to address.    What I have done is put a column to the right that indicates which element of the Logical Framework approach each question pertains to, at least as I understand the question.

Question for Stakeholders

Logical Framework Element

What do you see as the problem?

What might an ideal solution look like?

Outcomes (the solution of the problem)
Why is this a problem and for whom?

What are the consequences if we ignore the problem?

Purpose (the business need for the solution)
What benefits will a solution bring? Goal (the strategic benefit of the solution for the organization)
How will you know when the problem is gone? Success Measures and Verification (of solution)
What causes the problem? Assumptions (what conditions must exist for the solution to be realized)

The responses can be used to fill in the LogFrame matrix by using them to put detail into the element listed in the column to the right.

3.  Other Problem Analysis methodologies

The problem analysis listed above that Terry Schmidt has devised is just one suggestion.   Other proven methodologies include:

–Fishbone or Ishikawa Analysis

–Five Why Questions (from Toyota)

–Total Quality Management tools

–LEAN Value Stream Mapping

–Six Sigma processes

Some of these methodologies, such as LEAN Value Stream Mapping and Six Sigma processes, are not as much for creating new products, services, or results, as for improving existing products, services, or results.   Their growing importance in manufacturing is recognized by the Project Management Institute by including the improvement of existing products, services, or results in the definition of a project, which used to just account for the creation of new product, service, or result.

After discussing the Objectives (Inputs, Outcomes, Purpose, and Goals), which are the answer to the first critical strategic question of “What are we trying to accomplish and why?”, the next critical strategic question is “How will we measure success”?    If you cannot come up with a concrete measure of success that is verifiable, then your problem most likely is that the Objectives are too vague.   How do you avoid that mistake of having vague objectives so that the second critical strategic question can also be answered with clarity?   That is the subject of the next post.

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