Why did we decide to name our company Applied Frameworks? And how can you use frameworks to spur innovation at all levels of your organization? The answers to these questions and more can be found at the edge of a swamp in Quantico, Virginia, 35 years ago…
My First Framework
I first learned how to apply a critical framework while preparing for Marine Corps Officer Candidates School in 1985. “Boot camp for officers” requires successfully leading other candidates through various field exercises under intense stress for evaluation. The environment demands a memorable, powerful framework.
The Five Paragraph Order is the framework used to plan and communicate Situation, Mission, Execution, Logistics and Communications for any operation. This format allows rapid construction of information followed by crisp communication since the receiver knows the consistent structure of the plan.
In the military, the power of the Five Paragraph Order framework is twofold. First, it is universally applied throughout the Marine Corps, and other services, to communicate the plan to those who need to know the plan. Second, it is applied at all levels, from strategic operations down to tactical actions by fire teams of only four people.
In a business environment, frameworks offer similar benefits in inclusiveness and scalability, but their primary purpose is to power decisive breakthroughs with innovative thinking and clear communication.
A framework is a supporting structure of guidelines and
boundaries to achieve a specific goal.
Business frameworks range from strategic to team level application. While some frameworks support achievement of goals by individuals, most business frameworks leverage collaboration by groups of people working together to achieve a common goal.
Frameworks can be used to achieve goals both in the short term and in the long term. For example, the goal of the Strategic Alignment/Cost Matrix framework is usually achieved in a few hours. Alternately, the framework Mastering the Scrum is an infinite game.
Selected Business Frameworks
Strategy & Decisions
While you may be familiar with many frameworks, finding the best frameworks to achieve a goal requires knowledge and experience. Therefore, here at Applied Frameworks, we established an objective this year to curate a constantly growing catalog of business frameworks that we can share. In order to do that, we developed a consistent structure for each framework to aid understanding and make them easy to search. We are excited to share that structure below, so that you can start using these frameworks immediately. (They are all available as downloadable PDFs on our Resources page.)
Category and Goal
The first section contains the broad category in which the specific framework falls, e.g., Agile Processes, Product Management, Strategy, etc. This allows for easy searchability. This is followed by a succinct statement of the goal or purpose of the framework. For example, the Investment Horizons framework is a strategic framework with a goal to classify a portfolio and align on critical investments and opportunities for savings.
This section simply identifies who is required to apply the framework.
Guidelines and Boundaries
Next we identify the guidelines that describe the structure, rules and use of the framework. Guidelines assist facilitators and participants in achieving their goal. The next section, Boundaries, complements the guidelines by establishing parameters for the framework. As an example, the Impact/Effort framework is bounded by minimum and maximum impact and effort. “Negative effort” exceeds the boundary. Likewise the number of participants for collaboration frameworks rarely exceeds the boundary of eight people. The structure of a collaboration framework provides the pattern to scale to larger groups.
Next we describe the resources required to use the framework. This section includes information that may require preparation prior to use of the framework. It also advises whether the framework is more suited for use in-person or online. In this regard, many frameworks easily translate for online use while some like Product Box fail online and require alternatives like Shark Tank Vision for distributed groups of people. Resources include the tools and inputs for use. To leverage the Impact/Effort framework online, for example, the resources consist of:
- A collaboration platform (our favorite is Miro)
- A list of features, opportunities, initiatives or product backlog items
- Any supporting materials like sketches, mockups, prototypes, etc.
In the following section, we describe the expected actionable outcomes. By way of example, the outcomes resulting from the framework Participatory Budgeting include:
- List of funded investments.
- LIst of unfunded investments.
- Qualitative insights to decision making by groups.
Finally, we provide related graphics, notes, tips for use, citation of sources for attribution, related frameworks and any additional references.
How to Apply Frameworks for Business
I’ve tried many frameworks and have my “go-to list” of what works best for me. Once I find a new framework that fits my goal, I always test it to confirm fit for purpose. I always practice using a new framework before introducing it to a group of participants. When tests fail, I find and test other frameworks until I identify what works best.
Once I’ve decided which framework to use, preparing to use the framework is the next step. It requires attention to detail, clear communications and dedication. Preparation activities include:
- Inviting participants
- Reserving space or selecting a collaboration platform
- Gathering supplies
- Setting up the space or platform
- Preparing participants
- Organizing large groups into smaller groups of eight or less
- Preparing any other resources, i.e., all of the products in the portfolio for the Investment Horizons framework
- Preparing facilitators and observers.
Actually using the framework often consumes the least amount of time, but requires the most attention to detail to capture all of the results and observations from the participants.
Post-processing and analysis of results yields the most value from using a framework through new insights, clear decisions, robust agreements or firm alignment.
Why We Named Our Company Applied Frameworks
We believe so strongly in the power of frameworks that we named our company Applied Frameworks. Our name captures how we enable our clients and students to achieve success. In our careers we’ve learned and applied a wide range of these powerful frameworks that we love to share. Each one helps people take one step closer to the success they seek. I encourage you to visit our Resources to discover a framework to help you achieve your business goals.
Of course we also stand ready to provide our expert advice and services when it comes to selecting and implementing the right framework(s) for your business. You can contact us here to discuss further.