David Milstein

Clear Directions – Winning Strategies for Turbulent Times

by David Milstein

A number of factors have made the traditional approach to Strategic Planning outdated.1

The opening of global markets has been accompanied by a diminishing lag between innovation and competitive replication. Change, always a constant, has become so rapid that its management is becoming central to effective competitiveness and hence strategic advantage. New business models are being developed in response. They include the provision for collaborative endeavour, the building of a culture of continuous learning, focusing on creating value for the customer and devoting attention to innovation opportunities throughout the business and its environment.

The new imperative is for a forward-focused systems-based strategy that seeks out commercially exploitable opportunities and exploits them whilst achieving triple bottom line goals. To do this often requires a change in organisational culture and the rejection of strategies which delivered more of the same or which considered product/service based innovation as the sole source of competitive advantage.

The limited degree of successful change management recorded in the past, has led to a realisation2 that change requires two sets of strategies. Strategies to bring about change must be accompanied by a second set aimed at reducing or eliminating the effect of "blocking forces" i.e. actions and activities which specifically aim to prevent the change happening.

Success in future will require a planning approach which recognises this new system. Clear Directions is already assisting a number of organisations and businesses meet this challenge.3

What are the key features of Clear Directions?

  1. A collaborative approach. Clear Directions requires the involvement of all key stakeholders in the planning process, including those external to the business, e.g. others in the supply chain including customers and end users.
  2. Creating value for clients as a core element of any Strategy.
  3. A critical method of evaluating trends and their potential impact on the business.
  4. The identification and evaluation of the factors critical to the business's success-its Pillars of Success.
  5. Setting Goal priorities that ensure that:

    • Opportunities are taken advantage of
    • Any emerging negative aspects of the critical success factors are addressed
  6. Enabling strategies to achieve the Goals are supported with strategies to address any potential blocking forces.
  7. Enabling strategies to facilitate the development of communities of practice that will be responsible for implementing the Strategy.

The framework of a Clear Directions Strategy consists of:

  1. The Core Strategy

    The Strategic Intent of the business – what is to be accomplished and why.

    The Position of the Business in the market in relation to

    • The Domain in which it operates – the business's scope of operations –a potential source of innovation
    • Target Markets and Customers;
    • Product Scope and Range;
    • Benefits to Customers – how the business creates value;
    • Sustainable Uniqueness – the attributes that make the business extraordinary4, enabling it to compete effectively; and
    Industry Growth Target Graph

    Growth Target(s) – e.g. in relation to financial/ economic performance, personal development, community involvement, environmental stewardship etc.

    The Values that define the way business is conducted.

    Pillars of Success (Critical success factors) the keys to ongoing business success.

  2. A review of the Business Operating Environment
  3. Setting Priorities and Goals
  4. Developing Enabling Strategies, including strategies to address blocking forces.
  5. Setting Objectives
  6. Developing an Implementation Plan that facilitates and supports the development of Communities of Practice5 to implement the plan.

The steps for implementing a Clear Directions Strategy are:

Step 1
Identification of and Testing the Reasons for Taking Action
Step 2
Defining the Current Core Strategy
Step 3
Understanding the Current and Future Operating Environment
Step 4
Refocusing the Core Strategy
Step 5
Identification of Priority Areas for Accomplishing a Preferred Future
Step 6
Creating Enabling Strategies
Step 7
Developing an Implementation Program
Step 8
Taking Action to Implement Enabling Activities, Manage Change, Monitor Results and Fine-tune the Strategies


  1. This paper borrows heavily from an unpublished paper prepared by Richard Coutts and the author.
  2. Senge P et al. The Dance of Change. Nicholas Brealey. 2000. USA
  3. Members of the Building Designers Association Queensland; Fresh Fields clients; Gold Coast Food Forum; Queensland Rural Women's Network.
  4. Godin S. Purple Cow. Portfolio. 2002 USA
  5. "Groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this by interacting on an ongoing basis". Etienne Wenger

© Copyright David Milstein

About the Author
David Milstein

David Milstein (M.AITD; M.IMC) is the principal of David Milstein and Associates, a specialist in learning systems, strategic thinking and leadership. David Milstein can be contacted at 7 Gunyah Street, Lutwyche QLD 4030, phone (07) 3857 8202, mobile 0407 211 192, or email Web Page

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