Converting Vision to Strategy

Loyal readers will recognise the Shirlaws ‘Layers of Context‘ framework (below) and know the value of setting a 1 Word Context as part of your strategic planning.

The Layers of Context business framework demonstrates the relationship between Vision, Strategy, Structure, Systems, Processes and People
Layers of Context

So when I sat down with my Board (aka my beautiful wife) at the beginning of 2016, the top agenda item was “What is my primary context right now?”

The exercise – one where an external facilitator, even just a colleague, can prove valuable – led me to a long list of possible Contexts, or filters for strategic decision making.

Ultimately, following the 345 Framework, we narrowed this down to the single word most driving my Vision: FREEDOM.

This is the key mistake most strategic planning sessions make. They debate ‘what’, instead of chunking up to ‘Why’ (the context) and then using that to guide ‘What Strategy’. I almost made the same mistake – I had a long list of “important / essential” strategic priorities … and it was only when the FREEDOM context became clear that I could fully address these.

You’ll also note the question was about my context right now – not ‘for this year’. Strategy linked to time (eg, 90 day plans, 5 year plans) risks become too proscriptive. You may miss big opportunities, sizable shifts in your vision, or even worse take something achievable in less time and drag it out!

From FREEDOM, my top 3 strategic priorities became instantly clear to us: TIME, ENERGY, MONEY.

(Side note: I won’t claim these are magical or unique. See Afford Anything for this diagram identifying exactly the same priorities; and really they match the 3 issues private enterprises most identify with which led to the title of the book More Money, More Time, Less Stress.)


From experience guiding my client through this process, identifying these priorities isn’t necessarily immediate. The question to ask, having confirmed the ‘Box 3’ Context, is “What are the top 3 things you need to do to achieve that outcome?” Often these are ‘business’ words like ‘Sales’ or ‘Branding’, but they don’t need to be.

Completing these exercises at the start of the year (it’s not January? You don’t need to wait!) prepared me for a brilliant strategy session. I now had a clear focus, a purpose, and three strategic priorities to address.

In my next post I’ll share how I converted Time, Energy, and Money into a Strategic Plan.

(PS: Be careful when sharing your 1 Word, or hearing others’, not to make assumptions about what they mean by it. If you explore my Vision you’ll see Freedom appearing in elements like Location and Financial Independence, or driving an RV around the USA. Having run my own business for nearly a decade, Freedom doesn’t involve “escaping the man” like it may for others.)

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