How to Frame Powerful Strategic Questions

By Molly Penn

What are Strategic Questions, Anyway, and Why are They Important?

A strategic question is an open-ended question that is critical for an organization to answer or address as part of developing its strategy.

Every strategic planning process begins with framing a set of powerful strategic questions – open-ended questions, which are critical for the organization to resolve as part of its strategic plan. Sounds easy enough, right? Yet too often boards and senior staff don’t give sufficient time to ensure their questions are truly well-defined. So what makes for a good strategic question?

To help our clients frame strong strategic questions, we’ve created a deck of cards with some of the best strategic questions on them (see image above). We find these can help clients jump start their thinking in coming up with the ones that are most pertinent fo their organization at that point in time.

Refining Your Strategic Questions

Once we have brainstormed a bunch of strategic questions, we like to use the following criteria to vet and narrow the list to the 4-5 most important ones.

  1. Is this a question to which we really don’t know the answer? Is it thought provoking?

  2. Is this question likely to invite fresh thinking? Is it sharp enough to call forward a new response?

  3. Does this question generate energy?

  4. Does it dislodge old thought patterns or assumptions?

  5. Which of these questions are most critical for us to answer, or most controversial and need resolution?

  6. Which are the ones we know least about?

  7. Which are the core questions we must address in order to proceed with developing a truly strategic plan – one that responds to the state of the world outside our organization?

  8. Why is this important now?


We remind our clients that these will be the research questions that frame our data gathering – conversations with their stakeholders, focus groups, research, etc. This information, in turn, will help them determine how they want to answer these strategic questions, so taking the time up front to get these questions as strong as they can be will pay off in a plan with goals that are truly bold and unlock new possibilities for your organization.

Talk to us about how to frame powerful strategic questions!

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