The one question most strategists ask

  • Projects can be complex. There is so much to learn, so much to know. In starting a strategy project, it often feels as if a firehose has been opened and it’s your job to take in an unending amount of often messy and incomplete data.
  • We think we should know more than we do. We feel we should be experts on every new project. But while we may have experience in a specific industry, every project comes with a set of nuances that must be interrogated if we are going to produce work that performs.
Source: Hautestock
  1. Identify and schedule your stakeholders. Ideally, you’ll be speaking with three to 10 people for about 45 minutes each. Clearly you’ll be interviewing your main point of contact, but be sure to include their team and if needed, parallel team members touching the project.
  2. Develop your stakeholder interview guide. Aim for about 15 to 20 questions that will not only give you key insights into the project but also how your client can win. What will they be reviewed on at the end of the year? What keeps them up at night? What do they need to know but don’t? What does success look like — for both you and them?
  3. Conduct your interviews. You should be holding individual interviews, never group stakeholder interviews. This is crucial. If you would like to follow up stakeholder interviews with a workshop that is a fantastic next step, but do not undermine yourself by speaking to more than one person at one time. One person at a time means you will get more sincere, truthful answers and avoid group think or other influences.
  4. Take great notes. I recommend Excel and I like to take all of my notes in one sheet so I can compare answers by question asked. It’s also great to record and transcribe your notes. I like which is quick and affordable.
  5. Finally, analyze and present your notes. Don’t skip the step of understanding where there is alignment and where there is discord. This is one of the most important findings for a strategist as well as the entire team. Create a presentation (just be sure to take out names) that summarizes your findings — especially the areas of disconnect — and present it back to your team as a discussion starter and foundation for future work. Also, revisit it before presenting your final recommendations.




I am the EVP, Strategy at Wunderman Thompson Seattle. I also teach, mentor, and coach women in digital strategy.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Meet the Team: Justin Kramer!

Chasing Expertise or Asking the Right Questions

Dogs at your work? Some Twin Cities nonprofits see it as inexpensive perk

The Career (and life) Case for Emotional Intelligence

Dreams Become Reality with Action: An Inspiring Business Culture


The Rise of the Multi-Hyphen Career

Sewing -Training and Production on Industrial machines

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Laura Porto Stockwell

Laura Porto Stockwell

I am the EVP, Strategy at Wunderman Thompson Seattle. I also teach, mentor, and coach women in digital strategy.

More from Medium

How to make your customers 10 times happier!

Brand identity is as important as the product. If not, more.

How One Growth Hack From 2006 Can Teach You Everything You Need To Know About Growth Hacking

Sell the story, not the product.