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Essential Strategy – a New Model for the Agile Organization

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Purpose, Growth & Survival. Three things required for the long-term success of any organization regardless of size, complexity, sector or industry. Erin Sedor with Black Fox Strategy lays the foundation for a whole new approach that redefines how leaders can more successfully address strategy, risk and resilience within their organization. Essential Strategy will set a whole new standard for organizational excellence.

Essential Strategy & the Agile Model

Part of the Executive Strategy Symposium June 16 – 18th

Agile focused excellence. This is what we strive for in every organization, be it large or small, public or private, non-profit or government. Achieving this level of operation is a multi-faceted, multi-layered, continually evolving conundrum. Organizational performance ebbs and flows with the coming and going of leaders who embrace and drive these attributes each in their own particular way. Achievement involves people, plans, tools, resources and a systematic approach to continual learning and evolution.

A tall order? Yes, it is.

Agile-focused excellence is not something you can solve by reading a single article, taking a class, or watching a YouTube tutorial. It takes the combined wisdom of a well-oiled management team, a leader with both vision and pragmatism, and an understanding of “why” across the organization. We often hear “growth” and “revenue” as the primary drivers for strategic design, but balancing opportunity with risk and resilience is just as important.

While leaders intuitively understand the need to account for risk and resilience within their strategic plans, the reality is that there is often a disconnect between strategy and risk. We hear on the one hand that risk and resilience are operational functions separate and apart from strategy design which occurs at the top levels of leadership. However, in the very same breath, it is also acknowledged that risk and resilience are critical elements of strategic design. So, what gives?

We first need to understand that there is always context to be applied within any process, especially decision processes such as strategy design. Risk is not just an operational, hazard-loss concept. What we must define are the parameters of strategic risk and strategic resilience. To do that, we introduce and incorporate the concept of mission-critical, or critical path, that is relevant in order to not only grow but sustain the organization. Not all risks are mission-critical, but all mission-critical risks are strategic risks!

Agile focused excellence is not something you can solve by reading a single article, taking a class or watching a You Tube tutorial. It takes the combined wisdom of a well-oiled management team, a leader with both vision and pragmatism, and an understanding of “why” across the organization.

Essential Strategy was designed to break down these barriers between strategy, risk, and resilience throughout the organization. It focuses on three foundational principles – Purpose, Growth, and Survival – that every organization, regardless of size, type, sector, or industry, must encompass within their strategies in order to achieve sustainable success and perpetuate the business.

  • Purpose is at the very heart of strategy design and is the point of origin for every other piece of the planning process and operating process. Purpose is about where the entity came from, where it wants to go and why. It focuses on the story of the organization, its history, evolution and inspiration for the future, and it should allow for some tangible measurement of impact and progression towards the overarching vision, mission and values established.

  • Growth is about agility and the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission on a larger scale. In the competitive world, Growth is a fairly straightforward concept (revenue, market share, stock price), but in other sectors (federal, non-profit, co-op) it’s not always so clear. These entities ultimately exist to serve a greater good, so Growth translates into a capacity to do or achieve more within the core Purpose.

  • Survival is about resilience and an organization’s ability to rebound and recover from any manner of adversity that impedes its mission. Survival reaches beyond catastrophic scenarios, and for the public sector in particular includes loss of key talent, funding, and political turnover that can short-circuit plans and programs overnight. Survival is also about perpetuation of the entity, so necessarily includes identification and capture of emerging opportunities to fuel growth, as well as the creation of an adaptive and evolving organization.

  • Mission Critical Path is the glue that holds it all together. Mission Critical establishes both context and priority within the strategy design. It holds that everything we do within strategy is linked in a symbiotic way such that decisions for Growth and Survival are always connected to Purpose. When we assess the organization’s capabilities from within the Purpose, Growth & Survival lens, we are able to see much more clearly the critical paths to success.

Standing behind the foundational principles of Essential Strategy is the Agile Model, a framework that captures seven key elements that underpin the Purpose, Growth & Survivals as business cycles, and shapes a new method for capturing risk and resilience within strategy design in an effective and efficient manner not possible under other planning methods. This simplified approach for integrating strategy, risk and resilience improves organizational performance and creates long-term sustainability.

Want to learn more?

Hear Erin Sedor dive deep into the Essential Strategy Agile Model at the Alaska Strategy Week Executive Strategy Symposium. It will change the way you think about Agile Focused Excellence within your organization!

To register, visit

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