experiments in hypertext thinking
home / wiki / strategy consulting


# /helsinki-design-lab.md

In love with the HDL: http://helsinkidesignlab.org/

Crucial readings:


Follow the smart ones:



# /blogs.md

Blogs to follow in strategy space.

# /systems-change.md

Strategy consulting is a theory of systems change.

This course looks interesting:

Transition Design

# /studios.md

A list of research/strategy/consulting studios that are interesting:




# /real-work.md

Examples of real work methods


Incredibly detailed and disciplined approach to categorizing ethnographic research.


# /links.md

The management myth - a great rallying cry for the need for humanities and human thinking and some great context on where management consulting comes from in the first place.

Strategy as an unfolding network of associations (PDF) - kind of dense but fascinating case study of evaluating strategy within the context of culture:

The evidence from the case suggests that the concept of strategy can be reappraised. From strategy as a static set of choices made at a specific point in time to strategy as an unfolding network of people, shared experiences and artefacts that is constantly being remade.

Of strategies, deliberate and emergent - Thanks to Thomas Hogenhaven for pointing me in the direction of this one:

Since strategy has almost inevitably been conceived in terms of what the leaders of an organization ‘plan’ to do in the future, strategy formation has, not surprisingly, tended to be treated as an analytic process for establishing long-range goals and action plans for an organization; that is, as one of formulation followed by implementation. As important as this emphasis may be, we mould argue that it is seriously limited, that the process needs to be viewed from a wider perspective so that the variety of ways in which strategies actually take shape can be considered. For over 10 years now, we have been researching the process of strategy formation based on the definition of strategy as ‘a pattern in a stream of decisions’

Small groups and consultancy - by the ever brilliant Matt Webb:

I don’t think strategy can be outsourced, I think it has to emerge from a company’s nature. So when strategy evolves, there has to be organisational change. When an organisation looks outside itself (for answers that should be derived from strategy) that says to me that it’s not thinking straight, that the organisation isn’t put together quite right yet. An organisation has these informal components, and cross-team small group meetings feel like a good way to weave them in.

The art of sharing - Jan Chipchase is a master at this and I can’t wait to read the full handbook but this excerpt is especially relevant for the sharing / campaign thinking I mention above.

Consultancy, Creativity and Cooking with Sunday Dinner - from the great Lindsey Slaby thinking about new ways of getting creative projects staffed, funded, connected and thought about. I love the strong emphasis on people. They are the capital at work here!

Venkatesh Rao on Q lab - Venkatesh’s new slack only! consulting project. Given my advocacy to getting into clients slack groups you can see why this resonated with me.

The Fieldguide to Independent Consulting - ok, I’m gonna sneak one of my own links in here but if you enjoyed this post you should read this little thought-starter around independent consulting.

Venkatesh proposes that consultants get bought in when “monitoring costs” (in the coeasean theory of organization) are too high. I.e. a new type of work or one that the org does infrequently so has no way to efficiently monitor the quality of work.

This maps well to my idea of ways of seeing - i.e. teaching clients how to see the work is another way of saying teaching clients how to monitor the work. Dashboards rule everything around me.

Clients have problems that they describe as “I don’t know how to build this” when what they mean is “I don’t know how to measure this”.

Yet beyond being (cognitive) labour saving devices models have another obvious virtue. They provide a shared intellectual scaffolding: a common ground upon which people can interact and engage. In that sense models have communicative virtuosity - they are good to talk with. They allow ideas to be shared.

source: Models of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Models - EPIC

I’m about to design the connective tissue between research and vision, and I’m going to use the medium of words. My ability to successfully establish a believable framework rests on my level of craftsmanship with language.

source: Strategy is a Game of Language – Modernist Studio

WAR-type statistics track well with the increased emphasis on personal rather than organizational productivity that Melissa Gregg describes in Counterproductive, her study of time-management self-help trends. In that discourse, “productivity isolates and sanctifies the actions of individuals. It elevates an elite class of worker beyond the concerns of mundane others.” Productivity fetishism suits a society of free agents who must continually renegotiate the terms of their value, their viability, their irreplaceable contributions; it not only provides a rationale for employers to sort contract workers, but it provides those workers a way to frame their achievement in the absence of a stable association to a particular job or a particular set of co-workers. More and more of us are perpetually in the position of a baseball player facing an arbitration hearing. We cast everyone else as the replacement-level people that we are besting with our superior performances. To garner proof of that, we’re more likely to tolerate increasingly invasive forms of surveillance that can document our accomplishments and chart our personal growth on whatever metric is necessary, whichever seems to give us leverage over the competition, if not the employers.

source: Not Relevant for Fantasy Purposes — Real Life

High performing teams

What theorizing is not, theorizing is - (pdf)

Learning results from the adaptive and manipulative interactions between an organization and its environments: experimental actions are important because organizations rarely master their environments so that they can develop lasting optimal responses… Long-term survival calls for surveillance of opportunities, whereas short-term coping concentrates upon problematic search. Most organizations have much of the latter and little of the former (Thompson, 1967). Yet, if organizations are to survive in hostile and changing environments, they must change strategies and pursue new development patterns. Organizational design should encourage experimenting so that organizations attain long-term viability.

source: How Organizations Learn and Unlearn (Hedberg, 1981)

Contextual Wireframe Presentation by 𝐌𝐚𝐱𝐢𝐦 𝐋𝐞𝐲𝐳𝐞𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐢𝐜𝐡 on Dribbble

A survey of over 1600 civil servants in Pakistan and India found that “simply presenting evidence to policymakers doesn’t necessarily improve their decision-making,” with respondents indicating “that they had to make decisions too quickly to consult evidence and that they weren’t rewarded when they did.” No wonder Deloitte’s Reimagining Measurement initiative, which asked more than 125 social sector leaders what changes they most hoped to see in the next decade, identified “more effectively putting decision-making at the center” as the sector’s top priority.

source: Why Your Hard Work Sits on the Shelf — and What to Do About It

I think we have trouble justifying architectural investments in software engineering because, unlike in the automotive factory, our systems machinery is hidden away in a data center or “in the cloud.” However, if we demonstrate rigor and get creative about exposing the machinery to the CEO, the justification may become a lot easier.

source: Expose the Machinery — Resilien

Indy Johar - The boring revolution https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XwSZjv2DyQ Systems thinking, complex systems.

You came in as the high end consultant on rarefied air.  But then you stick around, and the luster wears off.  You eat cheeseburgers for lunch, just like everyone else.  And, after a bunch of months, you don’t seem as special as you used to.  Just one of the crew.

source: The Siren Song of the Long Term Engagement - DaedTech

This is wrong! This is the outcome from not engaging in status switching and strategy/stewardship! (or from shifting to coaching).


A workshop created for NEW INC members, Strategic Digital Gardening teaches attendees how to approach their digital marketing and communications as a “digital gardener.” Taking ecosystems and growth cycles as key points of inspiration, digital gardening is a process for manifesting goals through community cultivation and intentional seed planting.

source: Strategic Digital Gardening for NEW INC – Willa Koerner

# /ethnography.md

Ethnography in business:

For the past 10–12 days people have been participating in a diary study about memory that I’m leading on. From the very start I really wanted the diary to be a physical thing that participants received in the post. I wanted it to be something that delighted them, made them feel like taking part was a special and valued experience.

Combining paper and Whatsapp worked a dream. We asked participants to complete the tasks on paper and then photograph them and send them to us on Whatsapp.

source: Weeknotes 5: It is possible to run a successful paper diary study.

# /diagrams.md

Diagrams and Doodles

How do diagrams and doodling fit into strategy consulting? They’re related and adjacent. I believe doodling and diagrams are good practice for creating frameworks. See my post here for more on that:

Below are some interesting diagrams, doodlers and examples I’ve collected. Hopefully I’ll keep this updated:

Venkatesh Rao of Ribbonfarm fame

Venkatesh has tons. Drawings, doodles, diagrams, flows and more. Some faves:




Ben Thompson of Aggregation theory fame


Toby Shorin of Subpixel Space fame



Mark Pollard

All the good stuff is on Instagram: @markpollard

Nahee cyberdiagrams (nsfw)

The best instagram account I follow. Hands down.

Imagine a venn diagram of cyberfeminism, erotica, developer manuals, code and art. Mildly NSFW:


Think Clrly


Hugh MacLeod

Ex-ad-agency starts doodling on business cards. Gets good. Becomes famous. Turns doodling into a strategy consulting firm. Magic.



Wardly Maps

Related to the frameworks and diagrams idea is the notion of “wayfinding” in strategy. Most famously Wardly Maps. More on that here: https://medium.com/wardleymaps

And there’s a fun tool to build your own here:



Maps of the mind looks delicious.

Good deck of visual slides from Julian Cole here

But beyond their two-dimensional depictions of a physical world, maps also afford us the freedom to express the cosmos; to make all kinds of ideas about the spatial relationships of multiple components unexpectedly clear. To draw one is an effective way to establish order on an otherwise chaotic environment. To make it navigable. To make it rational.

source: The Importance of Visualisation

Emissaries guide to worlding - a lovingly designed book that has tons of interesting diagrams in it.

In one of the classes I teach at CCA, students were confused by mental models, conceptual models, concept maps, etc. I ended up drawing a taxonomy for models on the whiteboard, and it may help others.

source: Five Models for Making Sense of Complex Systems – Christina Wodtke – Medium



diagrams ↳ design process

diagrams of thought - massive arena channel!



Synthesis maps and gigamaps (browse the archives!)


WHOAH: one page designs - hour video explaining how to make one page system designs. Incredible. (and slides here)

Who should I add? Tweet me: https://twitter.com/tomcritchlow.

# /capabilities-decks.md

Case studies, capabilities decks and more that I’ve enjoyed:

Hawraf (RIP)

Mighty Jungle

Ericaheinz.com - not a deck but some great case studies fully thought through here.

Upstatement case studies - A+ design layouts for case studies.

Teehan & Lax Medium case study

The agency pitch - 10 slides - from Lindsey Slaby