Strategic Teams and Development – The Fieldbook for People Making Strategy Happen

dsb Publishing, Sept. 16, 2019 • 267 pages, softcover $29.95

Reviewed by Chris Wendel

In a nutshell: A thorough reference guide for understanding and addressing the essential elements of running an efficient team or organization.

Who is it for? Those working in teams or groups who need to bring people together to achieve goals. Team members wanting to think in more strategic terms.

Author quote: “The focus of this fieldbook is the definition and connection of individual team talent in the context of making strategy happen.”

Recent information from the Gallup research organization reveals that the vast majority of U.S workers are “not enthusiastic about or committed to their work and workplace.” The book “Strategic Teams and Development” suggests that this lack of employee engagement could be solved if managers and leaders had a better understanding, addressing the soft structures of assessing and engaging talent in order to get things done.

The book is written by Daniel Wolf, president of the Traverse City-based consulting firm Dewar Sloan. Wolf is well-known within his industry for his consulting work with business and organizations throughout the U.S. The book’s components were developed over the years as best practices, gleaned from Wolf’s work with hundreds of companies and organizations.

The result is a book that is a departure from standard business-related books that typically weave a fluffy narrative together with loose, unproven concepts. Instead “Strategic Teams and Development” directly lays out the foundation of what is necessary to establish and run effective, strategic teams. As its subtitle implies, the book is a reference guide that takes on the challenge of creating value within an organization by bringing together the pieces (and purpose) needed to solve problems, make sound decisions and eliminate risk. Its format may seem a bit disorienting at first, but once Wolf explains the book’s key elements – strategic agenda, talent blocks and beams, and cultural agenda – the book becomes clearer. These three elements closely relate to one another throughout the process.

Strategy agenda may seem like a combination of buzz words, but in this context it addresses the need for a clear direction and priorities. Wolf writes, “The most effective teams are not just informed about strategy, they are immersed in the culture and mechanisms for the work of people making strategy happen.”

Talent blocks and beams explains how human capital moves forward the established strategy agenda. It’s this connection between strategy and talent that motivates team members. This involves putting people in the right place and optimizing individual strengths while maintaining an established value proposition that moves the group toward common goals.

Although many organizations dance around defining their own culture, “Strategic Teams and Development” clearly explains the basis of a cultural agenda that brings together talent to motivate, drive progress and form strategies as the organization evolves. Culture within this context informs behavior as an expression of people learning, engaging, growing and advancing together.

Throughout its remaining chapters, Wolf divides the book into three major parts, which take a deep dive into the ways that strategy, talent, and culture mesh with one another.

For those who may at first be snowed by some of the book’s technical jargon, there are abundant explanations and illustrative graphics to make things relatable. There are also references to specific books and published resources at the end of each chapter to help readers apply the book’s content to their own specific situations.

Since I know Wolf personally, I can recommend this book while admitting that I have prior familiarity to his excellent work. Regardless, I believe “Strategic Teams and Development” is an indispensable reference guide for those in positions of optimizing resources and people in order to get things done.

Chris Wendel is a business advisor with Northern Initiatives, a Community Development Financial institution based in Marquette, Mich. Northern Initiatives provides money and know-how to businesses throughout Michigan. Wendel lives and works in Traverse City and can be reached at