Formwork, Not Framework

We sometimes miss the point when it comes to the use of frameworks in business.

Have you ever been around a management guru who can’t get away from his or her framework?  You know them, they are the ones who have trademarked the framework and, by golly, they are going to use it.

No?  Well, what about this one:  Have you ever asked someone to think about a strategy, and only received a filled in framework in response?  Surely, you’ve seen this one:

You and a business leader in your company:  “Give me a sense of your marketing strategy…”

2 weeks later:  “Here’s the strategy you asked for…we used the Segment–> Target –> Position framework.”

Ay Caramba.


It happens to people who are smart, and not.  It happens to people who are experienced, and not.  And, yes, it happens to people who should know better.

WGP has carried out more than 40 engagements in our short existence, with the vast majority of those focused on business unit or corporate strategy.  Our approach is littered with frameworks.  Littered, I tell you.


Because frameworks are useful as checklists. We use derivatives of classic business strategy frameworks all the time.  I have a personal affinity for the S-C-P framework, and it’s an absolute dinosaur (Structure, Conduct, Performance for those of you who don’t share my dino-approach to business strategy).

But, and this is an important but…the frameworks are not useful as strategies.  They are useful in helping to derive the right conversation that leads to a strategy.  And, that’s where so many management strategists go wrong.  Just like a balance sheet is a common basis of presentation for the financial position of a firm, strategic frameworks provide a common basis of presentation of strategic situations.  They don’t, however, provide interpretation.

You have to provide the interpretation…and the action.

And that’s the point of this post:  If you feel yourself being fed (or, feeding) frameworks as the answer to a business strategy question, you are probably off track.   Frameworks are not the answer, they are checklists for thinking.

Perhaps we should use the word formworks instead of frameworks because classical “frameworks” only provide a format for thinking.  They can never provide the skeleton of a real strategy.

Know how to use the tools.

Be careful out there.


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