A template for writing strategies

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out the idiot-proof strategy template from the book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, so here’s a summary. Next time you need to put together a strategy for solving a problem, try this out.

The template has three sections:

  1. Diagnosis: What’s the problem to solve?
  2. Policy: What guiding principle will you apply to the problem to solve it?
  3. Actions: When the policy is applied to the diagnosis, what actions do you see?

Here’s a made up example. Notice how the meat is in the policy. A good policy includes a tough tradeoff.

Diagnosis: I can’t decide if I want to move into management or stay on the independent contributor (IC) path.

  • If I move into management, I may lose my engineering edge, and I may miss writing code.
  • If I stay on the IC path, I can’t spend much time on the people and process stuff that I love. Plus, I may limit my growth.

Policy: Growth is one of my 2 values, so I’ll choose the path that will bring the most growth.


  1. I’ll read The Effective Manager and An Elegant Puzzle in the next month.
  2. I’ll update my resume this week.
  3. I’ll start applying for management roles next week.
  4. I’ll maintain my side project in my personal time so I don’t have to completely stop writing code.

See? Idiot-proof. It works as well for strategic presentations to stakeholders as it does for setting personal goals.

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