UX Strategy – Defining Strategy: Current States, and Future States

Originally published September 4, 2016. Updated November 13, 2016.

Summary: UX strategy isn't the blueprint, canvas, or definition. UX strategy is the conversations you have and the alignment you achieve. As you hack your own approach to UX strategy, remember two key elements: change and context

UX Strategy For Design Leadership: A 4-Step Guide

David Malouf put together a five stage overview on UX Strategy for UX Pin: Purpose, Peak, Path, Point, and Plan. It's a great overview that follows a similar trajectory to the process I've outlined here. It's a great place to start.

In the last strategy workshop I lead, I packed myself into a conference room with service-line leads, the IT team, and one lonely marketer. A savvy group, each service line delivered high-performing services across mobile, web, and in-store channels. They had it all: visions of where they wanted to be, an understanding of the problems they faced, and goals to get them there.

But they didn’t share their vision, problems, and goals. That’s what strategy is, the single, bright line everyone in the organization can see, understand, and follow together.

I use strategy workshops to help organizations see their strategy together, and visibly document the strategy (using something like my UX Strategy Canvas) so everyone, literally, sees the same page. 

But... there are different approaches to UX Strategy

Jim Kalbach published a UX strategy blueprint based research into business strategy and his experience with clients. I was struck by both the similarities and differences in our approaches.

Our approaches differ because they support our individual, collaboration processes that we use with clients. In addition, Kalbach’s strategy blueprint focuses on “user experience strategy” while mine focuses more on “business strategy”. 

By default, that means my process suggests UX strategy has more to do with business strategy. That’s really more of a footnote. The goal isn't to debate the definition of UX strategy. The goal is to help your clients get to where they need to go.

Your approach to UX strategy also varies if you work internally or as an external consultant and whether or not your organization has already defined its goals.

As you put together your individual approach, you’ll land somewhere between Kalbach and I and others. It’s not the blueprint, canvas, or diagram you use. It’s the conversations you have and the alignment you achieve. Below, I’ve detailed my approach to make it easier for you to hack your own strategy.

First, Strategy is about change

Strategy consists of the goals you use to evolve from your current state to a future state. 

Of course, more than one possible future exists. Your goals help you evolve from your current state to a single, preferred future state out of the set of all possible future states.


In this way, strategy represents the set of choices you plan to make in the future. Your goals guide these choices. 

Second, Strategy lives in context

Your strategy does not exist by itself. Strategy is a product of your organization’s environment. You can answer three questions to understand the key pieces of your strategy’s context:

  1. Why should you change? What drives your organization to change?
  2. Why haven’t you changed? What barriers prevent or inhibit the change?
  3. What will change? How will you know the change is a success?

We'll explore each of these three questions on the following posts.

Next, we'll talk about why your organization should change. What drives your organization's need to change?

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