It's time to set a new bar for organizational health, performance, and contribution.
What it is...
Essential Strategy is a simplified approach for integrating strategy, risk, and resilience capabilities to improve organizational performance and long-term sustainability.
It is built on a purpose, growth, and evolution framework that brings clarity and focus by using the nexus where these three things converge (we call it the vital juncture) to reveal critical strategic risks, gaps, and weaknesses. This allows for a more intentional prioritization of time, energy, and resources towards those things that are mission-critical.
Essential Strategy simplifies strategic planning and improves performance because creates intense focus on those things that matter most for the health and sustainability of the organization.
It is, quite simply, Better Strategy Simply Done.
The Essential Strategy philosophy is grounded in four foundational principles that hold true for every entity, regardless of type, size,
complexity or industry.
First, you must have and pursue a higher purpose defined by vision, values, and contribution.
Second, you must be intentional about the growth of the organization and its people.
Third, you must continually adapt and evolve to meet the needs and wants of those served.
Fourth, purpose, growth, and evolution are inherently connected and must exist in a state of equilibrium.
To create equilibrium, we need an element operating within the purpose/growth/evolution foundation to serve as a catalyst for strategic focus and operational excellence.
I call it the vitju - the vital juncture.
Vitju is the space where purpose, growth, and evolution imperatives overlap.
We use the vitju as the mechanism to identify critical priorities, creating alignment and balance between delivering on mission, pursuing growth, and planning for long-term sustainability.
Because the vitju is designed to seek equilibrium, it is a living, malleable, ideology. It is q catalyst for strategic agility that fosters a robust and repeatable discipline for adaptation as the internal and external environment changes.
Intuitive leaders have always known they needed a higher purpose, that their organization and people must grow, and that continual evolution must happen for long-term survival. Understanding these elements were necessary was never the problem.
The real problem has always been finding a structural mechanism to create and sustain an equilibrium between purpose, growth & evolution – one that could exist outside of any particular leader's personal drive or influence.
Essential Strategy solves this problem.
By using the purpose, growth, and evolution as foundational cornerstones to design strategy, and then using vitju as the mechanism to reveal critical risks, we more clearly prioritize time, energy, and resources.
There is no organization in existence that doesn’t require flexibility and balance in a continually changing environment. Essential Strategy provides both the foundation and the catalyst for driving intentional prioritization that supports true agility, contribution, and organizational excellence.
It is the alignment of intent and action, with a balanced focus across purpose, growth, and evolution, that shapes a collective of people, systems, and tools into a living, perpetually learning, and synchronized entity.
This is what it takes to build sustainability.
This is what it takes to achieve performance excellence.
Why it Works
Quite simply, it works because it resonates.
People inherently understand the concepts of purpose, growth, and evolution taking place throughout their own personal lives. We apply these concepts to the organization in a tactical way.
Organizations exist because of, and for the benefit of, people. No matter how you slice it, humans are the critical link in any level of success or failure that an entity experiences.
It, therefore, follows that moving an organization forward in a meaningful way requires that the overarching guidance steering the organization must resonate, to some degree, with each and every person involved.
When we structure an entity’s existence around a clear and defined purpose for contribution, intentional growth of both the people and the organization, and add in continual, adaptive learning to evolve to the changing needs of those it serves, suddenly everyone understands the direction.
Essential Strategy works because its steps outside of theory into something that is easy to understand and easy to apply.
It doesn’t take the place of planning systems and tools already in place, rather it provides a structure for those things to operate for their highest and best use, so we don’t get lost in the weeds.
Will it work for you?
Essential Strategy works in any organizational environment – I know this because it has been successfully used in nearly every type of entity out there. It brings simplicity and focus to even the most complex of operations like Alaska Native Corporations and Tribal organizations who have dual foci on business and programs. Essential Strategy offers a robust solution for the largest of organizations, but also practical scalability needed for small business owners and those entities with very limited resources.
It is at once both simple and robust in supporting the way the organization needs to think about itself long-term.
The foundational principles of purpose, growth, and evolution are easy to understand, easy to follow, and easy to implement.
By focusing on where purpose, growth, and evolution converge (the vital juncture), it reveals clear priorities required to design and execute strategy to achieve vision and mission.
As an approach (versus a plan or system) Essential Strategy easily layers into and compliments other processes, methods and tools already in use, and actively creates integration links across strategy, risk, compliance, resilience and best practice standards so those programs makes sense when taken together.
The "Why" Behind Essential Strategy
It was time to find a new solution to a very old problem.
Born out of Necessity
I was searching for a way to help my clients achieve success with a simplified approach.
A single system that could weave strategy, risk, and resilience together in an elegant way.
A system that would support better decisions and improve the chance of long-term sustainability.
And I needed something that would work every time for everyone.
So I reevaluated everything I had ever been taught about strategy design, enterprise risk, and organizational performance.
I took apart all the frameworks and started from scratch, keeping only the most essential pieces - the pieces that needed to connect and align.
The result was Essential Strategy.
Now, we use this approach and framework to help our clients every day. We know it can help you too.
How it Works
Like anything, Essential Strategy is an evolving thing. It started with the basic principles of purpose, growth, and survival and has since grown and changed on its own to meet the needs of those it was designed for – you!
Along the way, I have expanded beyond the foundational concept to include tried-and-true processes, tools, and performance formulas. I invite you to read on to learn more about the tactics behind the approach to see if it can help you as well.
When I talk about the Essential Strategy foundation, I am really focused on understanding the various elements of purpose, growth, evolution, and the vital juncture (vitju for short). Once you understand this, it quickly changes the way you view your own organization.
Purpose is at the very heart of strategy design and operational excellence. An organization’s purpose defines where we came from, where we want to go and why others should care. Purpose is more than just a future measure of success in monetary terms, it must speak to the contribution the organization seeks to make both to the people who serve within it and those it seeks to serve.
Growth is not just about revenue, but includes deepening cores, expanding capabilities, and measurable impact on vision. How, what, and when we need to grow is dictated largely by market needs/wants and industry evolution. As we maintain focus externally, growth also requires intentionality with growing internal human resources and capabilities.
Evolution is about perpetuating the organization so that we can continue pursuing purpose and fulfilling vision. This requires continual navigation to see how well our strategy is working and to spot changes in the external environment so that we can adapt accordingly, all the while staying in alignment with purpose.
Vital Juncture is how we thread the needle through purpose, growth, and evolution to reveal top priorities in how we deploy resources to execute strategy. It establishes the context needed to maintain equilibrium and links it all together in a symbiotic. Vitju is the catalyst for aligning the organization, creating the focus and intent required for performance excellence and long-term organizational success.
Strategy typically falls down in pre-planning assessment and post-planning implementation, so we paid particular attention to both these areas. I use a basic four-step process to integrate strategy, risk & resilience in a way that makes sense and adds value to the strategy design discussion. What makes this method different is that it recognizes how strategy, risk, and resilience are inherently connected - how they each impact and influence the other - and its very design reveals this interplay by identifying mission-critical priorities (those within the vitju) to improve risk visibility and plan execution.
Essential Strategy uses a four-step process to puts strategic planning elements in the right order and creates space to bridge what we know we can do with where we want to go. What happens in each phase will be unique to each organization, and they can happen in a different order or concurrently depending on circumstance.
Discovery is an intelligence-gathering phase focused on assessment of capabilities, risk appetite, market drivers, internal agility, past performance and more. It helps define gaps that need special attention.
Alignment is where you assess if what you do is going to get you where you want to go. Look at how well the organization is in-sync with the plan, and in particular, focus on finding and resolving any disconnects between the governance (board, council, owners) and leadership.
Pathfinding is the problem-solving stage of the process where the data gained in Discovery is combined with outputs of Alignment to create an ideal environment for strategic decision-making.
Performance is where the plan to execute the strategy is created. Realistic and feasible goals, metrics and targets are defined to accomplish the work with particular attention to communication, capacity constraints and culture fit.
The Performance Formula
As Essential Strategy evolved, it became clear that certain attributes were necessary to create the ideal environment for performance excellence. These six attributes define sustainable performance and create a holistic system of perpetual learning, improvement, longevity and mission success. Each one is intricately connected to the Essential Strategy foundation, and through the vitju, we explain the three critical intersects that tie them together.
At the first intersection of vitju is Aspiration (an element of Purpose) and Alignment (an element of both Growth & Purpose).
Aspiration is how we define our cause – the reason that the entity exists - a reason so compelling it speaks to clients, customers, partners, stakeholders, employees, and bystanders alike.
Alignment tests how well our people, assets and resources are deployed to support progress towards that reason. Both are core attributes that support defining and delivering on Purpose.
At the second intersection of vitju is Intelligence (Growth) and Decisiveness (both Growth & Evolution).
Intelligence is the depth and breadth of data and analysis relevant to capabilities, resource allocation, and market drivers.
Decisiveness is tied to the timeliness and effectiveness of strategic decisions made based on that analysis. It is the depth of understanding and intentional action that are the key attributes of successful organizational growth.
At the third intersection of vitju is Navigation (Evolution) and Adaptation (both Evolution & Purpose).
Navigation recognizes that no matter how well we plan, there is no predicting the future. Once the plan is launched, how well we monitor its performance is critical to success.
Adaptation is the ability to anticipate, communicate and effectively manage change consistent and in alignment with vision.
The Essential Strategy Performance Formula shows how the processes, systems, tools, and resources should come together as a living, learning entity that is capable of connecting people to purpose and cause in a way that benefits the those who support, those being served, and the organization as a whole.