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The Strategic Café or “A bottom-up approach to setting a corporate strategy” (Day 1)

If you ever had a chance to participate in a Strategy Definition meeting, you either had a good time because YOU were dictating the strategy to follow or had an awful experience because your recommendations were totally altered, down-graded to a point of irrelevance or blown out of proportion making them un-achievable. Needless to say, for most people a Strategy Definition meeting is an experience comparable to a visit to the dentist for a root canal.

As I already mentioned, not only is our organizational structure different from most organizations but so is our strategic process. As opposed to a top-down Strategy Definition where the Top Executives come up with the Strategy, we use a bottom-up approach. Once again, we rely on the wisdom of the crowd to come up with the best strategy we can achieve. Not only is the strategy sound, it also removes the need to obtain buy-in after the fact since employees participated in the definition of their strategy.

We’ve implemented a Balanced Score Cards approach to our strategic planning process 6 months ago. This approach is helping us move forward but the format of our previous meetings left a lot of room for improvement. After asking around for an alternate approach for the meeting, François suggested we try a World Café format. After reading about the principles and the book (The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter), we spent time preparing and planning for the meeting. Needless to say, the Strategic Café was a huge success.

You can read the agenda of the meeting as well as the questions asked during the sessions on my blog. If you are not already doing so, I strongly recommend you start using this facilitation approach to improve your meetings – including your next Strategy Definition meeting.

If you would like more information on how to organize your own Strategic Café, you can drop me an email (martin [at] I’d be happy to help.

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Comment by Martin Proulx on February 16, 2010 at 5:52pm
Yes, I certainly do. This Strategic Café was done with the management team of a software development organization. Are there any specifics you would like to hear about?
Comment by Jorge Uvalle Rubio on February 15, 2010 at 11:31pm
Hi Martin, nice to meet you. Your post helped me a lot, Do you know something about working with World Café for strategic planning in the software field? Specifically to create a vision for a software cluster?

Hi Amy, hope you´re doing well. Maybe you can help me as well, since you are in the field.

Thanks in advance!
Comment by Amy Lenzo on December 13, 2009 at 10:16am
Dear Martin,

Thanks! It would be great if you shared the story of your World Cafe in the community StoryNet, too, as that's the repository for all these great resources of personal experience.

Warm Wishes,


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