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Growth Strategy Template: Convenient Short-Cut, Crutch or Blindfold?

Growth Strategy Template: Convenient Short-Cut, Crutch or Blindfold?

How to Find the Right Approach for Your Organization

Like many people, you may be searching for a growth strategy template, a positioning strategy template, or a competitor analysis template. In the past year, there were over 19.2 million searches that included the keywords “growth strategy template.” 

There are many growth strategy templates to consider and step-by-step approaches to follow.   Some of those that ranked the most highly are:

Our team is also a fan of the classic one-page growth strategy template.

If your growth strategy is focused on new products and innovation, we’d also suggest using the SGOA (strategic growth opportunity area) framework.

Templates give a comforting illusion that just by following a few simple steps, a growth strategy can be created.   It’s unclear if the growth strategy will be fact-based, thoughtful, well-reasoned or lead to the desired results.  Still, minimally, your work will seemingly look good if the templates are followed.

Will Completing the Growth Strategy Template Lead to Profit?

As evidenced by the searches, today’s prevailing mindset is to get going filling in templates and after that, somehow, the growth strategy will appear. 

  • Step 1: Pick a growth strategy template to follow (or several)
  • Step 2: Fill the template in
  • Step 3: Get a great growth strategy that leads to profit

The “paint by numbers” growth strategy is similar to South Park’s Underwear Gnomes Business Plan with its magical thinking get rich scheme:

  • Phase 1: Collect underpants
  • Phase 2:  ?   (this step is literally a question mark, nothing more)
  • Phase 3: Profit

These fill-in-the-blanks approaches typically don’t describe how the work will be done, and with what data. For instance, the growth strategy might be:

  • Completed by one person,
  • Completed by a team (2+ people), or
  • Completed by several people or teams working independently and then integrating the work at a late step.

The Democratization of Growth Strategy Templates: Who is Your Architect and What’s the Process?

In the past few years, we’ve noticed that Insight to Action is increasingly asked to develop growth strategy templates as a training exercise, when working with analysts and managers who are rookies.

These growth strategy architects are often “first timers” who have never before worked on growth strategy.    We typically find lots of pages of material without any summaries or conclusions as the output from this assignment.  Because a lot of effort is put into the appearance of the template, the novice growth strategy architects often resist changes and prefer to tinker around the edges.

It’s democratic to put the organization’s growth strategy in the hands of rookies, and the reality is this is an increasingly common practice.  Completing the growth strategy template can become a “check the box” exercise, so everyone can get back to their real, day-to-day work.

Maybe Rookies Don’t Have the Answers

Other organizations we work with are choosing to invest time in leadership offsites to co-create a strategy based on data and insights, perspective and experience from leaders at all levels, ranging from the analyst to the manager to the director to the vice president to the divisional president to the CEO.

The focus in a more collaborative process should be about engaging in dialog and thinking, testing assumptions, and asking questions, rather than driving too early to fill out the template.     

While COVID made it difficult to collaboratively co-create growth strategy in real time, with restrictions lifted, we are finding that growth strategy offsite meetings are in demand in 2022.

Growth Strategy Template: Convenient Short-Cut, Crutch or Blindfold?

A More Intentional Approach to Growth Strategy

We recommend a more intentional approach to engaging with other humans to create the growth strategy.  The right approach is one that your organization can use.

From experience, we’d suggest asking some questions before diving into filling out the growth strategy template: 

  • How important is the growth strategy is to your organization? Correspondingly, what level of time and resources should be invested?
    • For instance, is completing the growth strategy template a classroom assignment for a summer intern project? In those cases, diving right in is appropriate because the results are not valuable. What’s valuable is the training exercise.
    • Alternatively, is growth strategy a real focus for your company that will drive its resource prioritization? In that case, more resources should be devoted.
    • A great pitfall to avoid is the highly-important growth strategy resource placed exclusively with a novice team.  While we’re big fans of fresh eyes, this goes too far.
  • What’s a process that will engage the core team to get the strongest participation?
    •  For instance, ask the team to do pre-work before any in-person meetings.
    • In the meetings, ask them to challenge their thinking with ideas from others, versus simply doubling down on their starting position.
  • Who needs to be involved on the core team? Who, if any, are not in the core team, but expert contributors, sponsors, or stakeholders needed to drive the strategy and get buy in?
  • What content needs to be included in the growth strategy? For example, can you use the one-page strategy template?
  • What’s the plan for driving execution against the growth strategy once it is created? What are the major strategies, initiatives? What’s the timing, cost, resources required and likely return?
  • How will the growth strategy be approved?
  • What’s the relevant timing? For instance, one to three years, three to five years, five to ten years.  Currently we are finding most leadership teams are focused on the one-to-three year horizon, or the three-to-five year horizon.

While it may seem satisfying to jump into filling out growth strategy templates to get a sense of accomplishment and progress, it’s better to take a “step back to move forward” and emphasize a more intentional approach to growth strategy.

Since people learn through examples, more resources can be found on our growth strategy resources page.   Or, join us at an upcoming office hour to share your perspective.