How to create an Emergent Strategy Template for your project





A simple team based template to help you develop and nurture your vision.

Whats this all about, (aka my journey):

I have worked now in Innovation, Performance management, Change and Business Development roles for over 10 years; While working in the delivery end, I have found the approach to new ideas and ways of thinking very stifling. While working in innovation I have found the value creation and justification in traditional businesses dysfunctional.

There is a common first step when managers and operational staff are confronted by a transformational suggestion, plan or idea: “Let me see the business case?”. At which point the life in any enthusiastic individual is sapped from them and they return to their current ways of doing things.

I actually understand the question. I really do; I just believe the question is being asked for the wrong reason and communicated in the wrong way. I begin to hate it, and for a period, i even tried rebelling against it and the individuals who asked for it. I started to realise, maybe it was me, maybe I needed to come up with another way; I have spent now a number of years trying to find and develop an alternative approach.  In doing so i actually found the real weakness was in how i was representing the idea or transformational suggestion. Working in Innovation I now see it regularly, individuals who believe they can solve the company's woes or create the new dream with just an idea.

It was this journey that has led me to create this “Emergent Strategy Template”

Some have said to me it is a hodge podge of different old school management techniques. Yep I agree! Old ideas sometimes have merit and timeliness; I have just morphed them to fit the current need as I see it in all business who are really serious about Innovation, growth and developing a new future.

I now believe this exponential environment where technology growth is out stripping businesses ability to work with it, that some help and something new is required. That is the context in which i have developed this template. I just feel in an environment where innovation is bubbling, a template which helps shape this approach, creating an emergent mind set will help validate, justify progress and support traditional organisations to initially at least move away from the traditional thinking which is hampering, growth and transformation.

As I have applied this now over the last 18 months, i have found it has worked for high level strategy, at start up businesses, and interestingly at project scoping level. It helps to set a team's context, a team's justification but also has an underlying iterative, learning and testing approach to activity.


The Cloud

Why am I doing this?



The “Reason for being”, the underlying factor that excites you when you talk to someone else about your endeavours. I have seen it referred to as the “muse” for your project, what is it that drives your motivation. I am not asking for the challenges, the customer needs, their issues, the desire to make lots of money. I want to see in a short sentence the underlying reason that is driving you!

The Justification:

This is the bit you tell you new employees, your partner, your friend, your neighbour over the fence one afternoon. Why is it you are happy to work until 3 in the morning, and get up at 5. Traditional business don’t like the why, as it is all emotional, I do! I think getting to this early, before you start even helps to ensure decisions later have clarity and the true motivations are understood.

This section validates all the other sections, this is the one when everything is getting  a bit difficult, your customer hasn't paid, your software isn't working, your boss wants to change things. Clarity on the WHY will pull you through. I would say this section once you have it, can take minutes and be fun to create. It could also take you a long, long time of testing, trying, validating, discussing and then after that trying to articulate. Enjoy, upload your Why’s I would love to see them.


Watch the Simon S… Ted talk. It's a great explanation, better than i can articulate on paper in black and white.

The Anchor:

When you're running, everyone talks about the Wall. You have to run through it and how you do that is focus on the finish line. That is your focus, your why.  

Weak Examples (that need further exploration):

Because I have always wanted to run a coffee shop..” --- i would want to know more, go deeper, why  a shop, why coffee.

“I want to set up a company so I can work from home and take my children to school in the morning!” - why set up a company, why not find another job that allows home working?

“I have always wanted to build my own things” - why what is so great about building your things? How can that be done.

“I believe that the world really really needs this as a solution……” why do you believe this, why are you the person to do it.

“I don't want to sit behind a desk, I want to get out and work in the sun.” - this is getting better, it feels more about the person.

“I want to be seen to do something good for the world” - I like this one, i would want to take down the level of abstraction in the sense of what is your definition of good for the world, what is important to you in the world. However, again i see the person, seeing the person is good it feels right for the “Why”

How to Facilitate this section.....

Facilitation Technique - 6 why’s is surprisingly effective, try if from a few different start points and i expect you will get back to a common perspective.

The Future:

There is lots of talk about pivoting, this is the section that needs validating most at this point. Yes you can re-develop a new customer offering, but not the reason why. If you are changing the why, you really are changing everything, and that to me feels not like a pivot but something new. Something new is exciting, but then i would say start again, re-build everything back up from the base, it will help you to really stop. Pivot is an important term and has context, but it also has significant limitations, risk and heartbreak, only do it if you fully understand your why.



That short snippet of what you are all about that you tell your customers, the snippit of value and wisdom that you want to create for them. The punchy one liner to your business.

The Justification:

The Why? Is about you. The Vision is about your customer, what are you aiming for that once achieved means you have have their value and benefit of the core of your offer. Everyone talks about having the end in mind, i have an affinity to “Goal Directed Project Management”, either of these require an understanding of where you want to end up.

The more traditional management speak of Vision and Mission has been around for a while; I would have liked to have done away with them, however the more I tried, the more I saw the benefit; When I moved the vision to the peak of the mountain and the mission to the start of the journey it just clicked. What I realised about my own personal frustration with Mission and Vision statements is it's not the issues around having them, it is how they are being created and then misused. I believe in the emergent strategy model it's the context in which the Vision and Mission is created that gives them the recognition they deserve. Most organisations honestly pay lip service when creating the traditional vision and mission statement in a business plan, it is a few post-it’s on the wall or a workshop to agree phraseology and semantics.

For me  wrapping it around the Why, the How, the Where and What helps to understand the context in which a Vision and MIssion sit; Thus creating the psychological link. This template should help set its context and thus validate the links to the later both in terms of the Emergent Strategy Template but also detailed business cases, product roadmaps, plans and investment.

The anchor:

In Sport it's easy. David Berisford said for Team Sky his Vision was to “Win the Tour De France in 5 years”. So his vision is Winning the Tour De France. What a great simple vision.


To provide the cheapest, fastest broadband service

“the nicest, warmest friendliest coffee shop in town”

How to Facilitate this section....

…free style, creative thinking, think with the end in mind.

The Future:

This for me is the one that may change, it may pivot, you may create more clarity as you emerge over time, but getting it down as a starter helps everyone to pull in the same direction. The anchor of sport is great, but in the business world there is never such a clearly defined end point in which a cup final occurs, or the final race down the Champs Elysee, so it will take time;  I would hedge bets, for me think about it as your first customer hypothesis to present to them and test, it is also the first hypothesis in which your employees, team and family know what you are trying to achieve.

The Peak.jpg

The Peak

The Vision is....

The Path.jpg

The Path

What Journey are we now embarking on, what missions do we now have to go and test.

The Path: The Journey we are about to embark on…


The mission is often the hardest in workshops to start with, but using it in the emergent strategy model and framing it in the context of the here and now makes it a lot easier to define. It is all about framing where you are today and the journey you are about to start.

The Justification:

Map our your journey. Think what you are going to do, but frame it in the context of what you're going to learn. The basis of emergent strategy is you don't have the right answer, you don't know what the future holds, but you are going to structure a mission so that you can learn, build, iterate towards your vision.

The Anchor:

You're going on a backpacking holiday, you have some money, some clothes and a starting ticket, where you will end, where you will stay you don’t know. You just know you want to go and have fun. There is no clearly defined destination, where you will visit, what you will see, what works, what fits and what to do next.


A Coffee Shop:

We are going to set about finding, renting, and designing a coffee shop to achieve our vision; Our initial mission will be to focus on what good customer experience is and how that will drive reputation, design, offers and the best coffee in town.

A consultancy business:

We are ALL going on a journey to learn about the consultancy business, to find our own specific niche, to break even and set about creating a long term sustainable business.

How to Facilitate this section....

As a team, pull together the top 5 things you need to learn about over the initial phase of your emergent projects; [if need be prioritise them, rank them, don't lose the wider detail but use these to frame the mission]

Start with the statement:

We are going to set about…..

We are on a journey to create…

We are going to do and find out about ……

We will over the next time period make…..

We are on a journey to learn about…...

The Future:

Once created, this should give you your first move, your short term objectives;