What is Rainforest Strategy?

Harvard Business School professors, Dr. David Norton and Dr. Robert Kaplan, creators of the balanced scorecard, put it this way: “Strategy is an integrated set of choices that position a firm, in an industry, to earn superior returns over the long run.” That’s directionally what everyone wants, whether the unit of concern is a firm or a whole region.


STRATEGY SERVICES: Measure + Facilitate + Educate + Coach



Strategy work typically beings with the following two-part assessment approach:

1)     Rainforest Scorecard: this reveals many important conditions in the organization or region that influence strategy along six axes. Try our Rainforest Scorecard innovation assessment (short-form) for free online. We'll send you a brief analysis of your results including some thoughts on strategy.

2)     Detailed analysis of existing strategic plans and other directional documents along with interviews of key stakeholders. This highlights the strengths and improvement opportunities within the strategic management of the organization, or other unit of concern. We are looking for clearly-articulated elements:

a.     Strategic direction expressed in terms of values, mission, quantified vision, and a well-formed set of strategic themes

b.     Coherent and complete suite of objectives across four domains: capabilities, internal processes, customer perspectives and financial perspectives

c.     Line of sight from the loftiest strategic direction down to the initiatives of work groups and the performance management of individuals

Our approach to assessment is in line with the first phases of design thinking, where the conditions are assessed with a preliminary vision in mind. This approach also serves diagnostic purposes.

These assessment activities conclude with a “Sponsor Session” wherein client leaders are facilitated by RFS to interpret their assessment results. Leaders will be designing a path to sync strategy creation, strategic planning and management, and tactical execution with what will be required for sustainable success.  


Building on the assessments described above, a customized approach is crafted that will facilitate 10 to 100 or more participants through a highly-accelerated design session that may range from 1-3 days or more depending on project scope. Profiles of various strategic planning and one-off issue-focused Rainforest design sessions follow:

·  Department-level strategic planning: 20-40 participants for 2-3 days, plus ½ day debrief with project sponsors. Deliverables: an event summary and strategic plan document with local interpretation of parent organization mission, vision, values, and strategic themes, and a strategy map of objectives. Rainforest Strategy is baked into the process by designing to strengthen innovation domains highlighted in the assessment. Support is provided to detail out measures and targets after the event. Cases: IDB Finance, Solar Turbines

·  Business Unit strategic planning: 50-100+ participants for 3 days, with pre- and post-event Sponsor Sessions. Efforts at this level involve a blend of addressing priorities from the parent company and decidedly local cultures, sometimes not on the same continent. Rainforest Strategy in such cases interprets innovation culture and leadership in local terms and designs processes accordingly. Deliverables:  Cases: Vodafone Netherlands, Microsoft Skype

·  Enterprise strategy & strategic management systems: This level of work includes the roll-up of department and business unit level work, including one-off design sessions targeting specific issues. This process aligns, rationalizes, and cascades strategic themes, objectives, measures and targets through the organization. This is usually attended by the senior management team (and others, as selected) to review, consolidate and institutionalize the department-level strategies, and to create and implement an ongoing, shared process for planning. This is crucial in any number of ways for leaders, but most importantly where strategic planning is transformed from a static, check-list project to a dynamic, engaged way of living. Cases: Kauffman Foundation, BitTorrent, Imaging Healthcare Specialists


Our Rainforest Strategy programs are experiential learning experiences – where real work is accomplished. For clients who wish to embed mastery of innovation strategy, strategic management, and strategy facilitation into the fabric of the organization, we will deliver customized programming to meet those needs. This is best done in conjunction with enterprise level strategic planning and creation of strategic management systems, as those projects offer ample opportunity for shadowing RFS consultants and receiving coaching along the way.


We provide coaching programs to leaders and managers that are focused on improving their strategic management skills, their use of Rainforest Strategy templates and tools to aid execution and ongoing management of strategy updates. Coaching packages are custom designed and often accompany other Rainforest Strategy engagements.

integrating strategic choices produces four conditions found in highly innovative cultures:


Shared frameworks and language improve results, speed, and trust. Difficulty communicating, inability to make strategic decisions collaboratively, and slowness to implement, are the bane of organizations and regional economies. Statistical analysis of all Rainforest Scorecard assessments ever conducted clearly shows “Frameworks, Policy, and Infrastructure” as the weakest of the six domains we assess. Rainforest Strategy processes fill part of this need by facilitating communication about long-term direction and priorities; and creating contrast between current states and visions, thus making innovation priorities visible. Our method makes possible collaborative agreements on how to achieve clearly defined objectives over the long haul – many of which require robust innovation. With Rainforest Strategy frameworks and processes, clients report achieving in days what would otherwise take months.


Leadership needs alignment on values, mission, vision, and strategic themes to generate an innovative culture and sustain success. Leaders without a clearly defined direction, suite of measurement methods, and organizational performance targets can’t focus their organization to produce. Without broad strategic themes and priorities, innovation efforts lack direction. With Rainforest Strategy disciplines on board, our client’s leaders are able to allocate resources toward strategic innovation, deploy their organization’s innovation role models to priority issues, detect how well innovative experiments contribute to strategic objectives, and, they can confidently adapt the organization in order to reach a breakthrough.


Cultures of innovation encourage experimentation, are sensitive to dynamic internal and external changes, and deliberately adjust strategic direction over time. The world is dynamic, and often unpredictable. Therefore, management of strategy formulation, strategic planning, and strategy execution require an ongoing discipline. Rainforest Strategy embraces this reality with processes for strategic design dialogues not dogma, and planning disciplines not just one-off plans. Strategic thinking and disciplines are core ingredients of any innovation culture.

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Activities and engagement for defining and updating strategy – this is innovation applied to the organization itself. It is common in organizations, and even more so in economic development regions, that there aren’t enough activities, processes, and opportunities to engage with others in innovation. There is no more fundamental innovation activity than assessing internal and external conditions, then collaboratively designing the integrated set of choices that position the firm or region to achieve superior prosperity, social progress, and sustainability over the long-term. Rainforest Strategy methods in organizations and communities are inclusive, collaborative, apply proven accelerated-design principles, and have monthly and annual rhythms. These create habits and conventions that encourage innovation activity. We also design and facilitate marquis events like regional or global innovation summits. Client groups that embrace Rainforest Strategy have built a lively tempo of broad participation in innovation activities, often cutting their teeth in Rainforest methods with their own strategic planning.

Whether your organization is focused on product/service innovation (think Apple or Tesla), customer intimacy (think Lexus/Toyota or Amazon), operational excellence (ex. FedEx or Southwest), or being the lowest cost provider (ex. Walmart or Ikea), the Rainforest Strategy discipline for strategy creation, planning, and execution will improve your culture of innovation and strategic results.

Email or call us to start the conversation about assessing and facilitating your organization or region to greater strategic results and a robust innovation culture.