New Resources for Strategic Thinking

It’s been an absolute joy to be working with HMRC again this year delivering the Strategic Thinking Masterclass to their ‘Ascend’ cohort of aspiring senior leaders.

Keen to refresh the offering from last year I’ve been doing a bit of digging to find some new resources.

I’m always very keen to ensure that the resources that I recommend will work in the Public Sector context, which has some significant and unique challenges. It frustrates me how much of what I see applied here is just transferred wholesale from the private sector without any real appreciation for the complexity, ambiguity and political dimensions that constrains us.

This little book on ‘Strategy Workout’ does not address complexity directly, but is fairly free from many of the private sector cliches. It is an easy read; a useful ‘how to’ guide for some of the basic building block tools of strategic thinking and strategy development.

If you want to try something a bit meatier on the issue of complexity and Strategic Thinking, then try this from Arnaud Chevallier.

The blurb on the back says “Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving is a tool kit that integrates theoretical and empirical evidence from many disciplines and explains it in accessible terms. As the book guides you through the various stages of solving complex problem, it also provides templates to help you easily apply these approaches to your own personal projects.”

The methods advocated in this book hinge on good questions, and I love the refrain ‘look for alternatives not processes’. There’s a lot of good stuff in here of real value to the Public Sector.

Working with leaders in the Public Sector it has become clear that the real value of the use of models is around the conversations they create. I always encourage people to reflect on and attempt to capture the learning in these peripheral paces. The ‘finished’ model doesn’t always tell the complete story. That said, there are ways to capture strategy development in a visual way.

I’ve recently stumbled across the work of Simon Wardley and find what he says refreshingly honest and incredibly helpful. Make yourself a cup of tea and watch the video below. ( You can find him on twitter @swardley. )

I’d love to hear if you’ve discovered great resources that help us grapple with complexity and strategy mapping, or if you’d like me to come and help apply some of this stuff in your organisation. Drop me an e-mail of come say hi on twitter.

20 things having twins taught me about negoiation

This blog post was commissioned by the Talented Ladies Club and first appeared on their website

In my early career I worked alongside Government Ministers in Brussels on the negotiation of a European Treaty, and was pretty confident I knew everything there was to know about negotiation.

And then I had twins.

Since then, I’ve learned a LOT more about trying to find an acceptable common ground when negotiating with (potentially unreasonable) people. And to help you achieve the same without needing to actually have twins yourself, I’m sharing some of my best negotiation tips.

So here they are – 20 things having twins taught me about negotiation. (If you’re applying these tips to a home scenario, assume that ‘your side’ is your partner, and ‘the other side’ are the kids!)

The basic principles of negotiation

  1. Keep it simple – if you get confused you’ve lost before you’ve begun.

  2. Get plenty of sleep – sleep deprivation does not help complex arguments.

  3. If you see a short cut, take it – don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.

  4. Learn (and teach) to share – it’s not a skill that comes naturally.

  5. Look for opportunities to build credit – negotiation is always based on relationship.

How to understand the motivation of the ‘other side’

  1. Everyone has their own idea about rewards, so work out what is motivating the other side.

  2. Sometimes it’s just not possible to share; you need to be able to deal with inequality.

  3. Divide and rule – deal with each individual as an individual.

  4. Having ‘one each’ rarely fixes the problem (one party just wants two).

  5. Remember to engage with the other side and ask what success would look like for them.

How to plan a strategy for ‘your side’

  1. You must have an agreed team plan for your side or the other side will out manoeuvre you.

  2. Negotiators are taught to identify their bottom line – you’ll be much happier if you lower your expectations early in the game!

  3. Remember to check in regularly with those on your side; you might need to adapt your strategy as you go, but avoid unilateral decisions where possible.

  4. Communicate clearly and with one voice. Don’t let the other side play you off against each other.

  5. Play the long game. Sometimes it’s better to concede defeat in one battle just to live to fight another day.

What to consider when it’s going wrong

  1. Check that everyone is well fed and watered.

  2. Consider a change of venue; getting outside can often break a deadlock.

  3. Do you need to apologise for something? Have you offended the other side in some way?

  4. Take time out. Restart.

  5. Is there another way? Always aim for win/win outcomes; sometimes you need a dash of creativity to come up with them.

If you’d like to read something much more serious about negotiations, I recommend The Truth about Negotiations by Leigh Thompson.