Strategy as Context: Operating within a Strategic Frame

15 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2018 Last revised: 4 Apr 2018

Date Written: December 2, 2017


All strategic models are designed to support organizations as they seek to ensure their long-term success. The prevailing assumption has been that this entails identifying a long-term path through which that success can be secured. In this paper, I propose an alternative view of strategy. In this view, strategy is not about setting a long-term path but rather it is about creating a long-term context.

The model advanced in this paper for establishing that context is the Strategic Frame. There are four key conversations that constitute the Strategic Frame, or strategic context, for any organization or any part of an organization:

  • Purpose & Ambition - (For whom does the organization exist? What difference are we here to make? What do we say success is?)

  • Stakeholder Commitments - (Who else has an interest in what this organization does? What, if anything, are we promising to them?)

  • Guiding Beliefs - (What do we believe it will take to fulfill our purpose and meet our ambitions? What critical assumptions are we betting on?)

  • Strategic Assets - (What do we have that makes us uniquely capable of succeeding? Which assets must we protect, leverage, and invest in over the long term?)
Once an organizational leadership team puts this Frame in place, it guides and shapes near-term choices such that they are naturally coherent and aimed at long-term success.

This paper offers specific guidance for accessing each of the above conversations such that strategic rigor and discipline are ensured.

Keywords: strategy, context, alignment, Strategic Frame, purpose

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Allan L., Strategy as Context: Operating within a Strategic Frame (December 2, 2017). Barbados Group Working Paper No. 17-01. Available at SSRN: or

Allan L. Cohen (Contact Author)

Allan L. Cohen Consulting ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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