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Bruce Holland

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Two schools of strategy: Logic and Magic

There are two schools of thought about the Strategic Process:

  1. Logic School - A left brain and linear school
  2. Magic School - A right brain and nonlinear school.

The differences

The Logic school is by far the most common, however, on its own it is seriously lacking. It is based on several unspoken assumptions that are highly questionable:

  1. That you can create a powerful vision of the future after thinking extensively about the present. In my experience, thinking too deeply about the present tends to limit the possibilities considered for the vision.

  2. That analysts are the best people to drive the Strategic Process. In my experience Line Managers are far better drivers of strategy because they understand the issues and reality in the market place. They are also the people who must execute the strategies and therefore their ownership is vital. Managers do not have sufficient ownership or understanding when strategies are presented to them by analysts.

  3. That the ideas needed to create a winning strategy do not exist within the organisation and need to be imported from outside. In my experience this is simply untrue. I think it’s vital to have an outsider to lead the Process so they can challenge thinking that is not strategic or innovative enough; but I’ve found the content is always available from within.

Two schools of strategy

Left Brain ThinkingRight Brain Thinking
Starts With the PresentStarts With the Vision
Driven by AnalystsDriven by Line Managers
Ideas must be importedIdeas exist within firm
Extensive analysis determines strategiesExtensive analysis to test strategies
Sequence of questions isSequence of questions is
1. where are we?1. where do we want to go?
2. where do we want to go?2. where are we?
3. how are we going to get there?3. how are we going to get there?


Both schools have their strengths and weaknesses. It would be wrong to disregard either; however, in my experience most New Zealand organisations rely far too much on the Logical approach. As a result, many strategic workshops are boring, lack acceptance and not nearly as successful as they could be.

Here’s how strategy could be

  • "Excellent, well paced, well moderated, took us along the path at just the right pace. A very robust and obviously well-tested process that more than achieved its objectives. Trust the process! It's tested and it really works. Taking all factors into account the workshop was one of the best I've been to. 5 out of 5". Peter Lee, CEO, Institute of Financial Advisers.

  • "Excellent facilitation as usual! Skillful guidance of a herd of cats. Excellent process for bring focus to strategic thinking. Taking all factors into account the workshop was one of the best I've been to. 5 out of 5." Liz Koh, Director, Institute of Financial Advisers.

  • "Good focus on what's important. Go for it. I'm converted! 4 out of 5." Nigel Tate, President, Institute of Financial Advisers.

  • "Extremely worthwhile! We needed to agree as a team and this was achieved. It's a good process controlled to a large extent by the participants. 4 out of 5." Neville Caird, Director, Institute of Financial Advisers.

  • "I think the workshops were very useful, targeting intended objective. The prework was relevant and easy to follow. As for the facilitation, this was one of the best workshops/courses I attended. It was engaging and interesting. Use Bruce. Guaranteed to deliver. Very interesting and engaging methods of facilitating a workshop. Rating 5 out of 5 (one of the best I've been to)." Zvonko Lazic, Magnet Engineer, HTS-110.

  • "Overall, I enjoyed the experience of attending the project workshops and felt that there were some valuable results obtained in the workshops. I thought the modules well presented, entertaining, thought provoking, and well worth the time used. Your chairing of the meeting start and end was also very competent. I felt that there were real benefits to be had in the presentations and exercises and would recommend it to others. Rating 5 out of 5 (one of the best I've been to)." Mike Fee, Magnet Design Engineer, HTS-110.

  • Very effective process whereby facilitator has low profile with consequential high involvement of participants. Process provided desired outcomes in timely and broadly involved manner. Overall score 4 out of 5. David Hill, Chief Executive, Capacity Infrastructure Services.

  • The pre-work reading was well prepared and very useful preparation for our workshop. Bruce Holland is an excellent facilitator. He managed to draw everybody into the project and kept our focus. He had a vision of how we needed to progress through the process. Very dynamic workshop with plenty of interaction. Overall score: five out of five. John Baines, Engineer, Capacity Infrastructure Services.

  • Excellently facilitated. Pre-reading material and formative and challenging in the right way. Workshop focused and empowered staff, a great way to get the best out of everybody in a warm way. Overall score: five out of five. Bill Arnold, Senior Engineer, Capacity Infrastructure Services.

  • The workshop was very well organised, material was available to read through before attending the workshop. It was useful in terms of getting to know Capacity's future direction and strategies. I strongly recommend Virtual Group for similar purposes. Overall score: five out of five. Diana Isaacs, Engineer/Planning Team, Capacity Infrastructure Services.

  • The process was insightful and reminded me of exciting times at a previous job. this bought direction, confidence and belief to our ability to succeed. Go with an open mind and be prepared to be challenged. This process has bought direction to our company. It has identified our strengths as a team. Overall score: Five out of five.Murray Seamark, Manufacturing Director, Canary Enterprises.

  • Pre-work excellent. Well run, right amount of intervention and guidance to ensure desired end is met. Very useful means of defining objectives and achieving consensus within a team. An inclusive process. Overall score: Four out of five. Ross McCullum , Consultant, Canary Enterprises.

  • Insightful, thought-provoking and satisfying. Enjoyed the pre-reading. Like the way things kept moving along. Comments to someone else: Don't wait. Be ready to get out or the box and answer/ ask hard questions. Overall score: Five out of five. Kylea Heaton, General Manager Operations, Canary Enterprises.

  • Workshop was structured in a way that took all participants through a process that delivered the end result that we were looking for. Bruce is an excellent facilitator with great experience in leading a team to develop their own conclusions. Overall score: Five out of five. Derek Bartosh, Director, Canary Enterprises.

  • Overall impressions, very good. The pre-reading was thought out and provoking and intriguing. The process of the workshop built to a nice conclusion. Very favourable results indeed. Good on you. It was a really enjoyable and thought provoking. Comments to someone else: It will be hard work. It will challenge you, but will also be rewarding and directional. You will have a plan. Overall score: Five out of five. James Gray , Director, Canary Enterprises.

Regards Bruce.
Bruce Holland
Virtual Group Business Consultants
Hutt City, Wellington, New Zealand.
Phone +6421620456 or Skype Bruce.Holland
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