Strategic Doing

Strategy, as an organizational discipline, got its real start with the military – the term comes from a Greek word meaning “generalship.”  Fast forward a few millennia, and we know it best in the context of “strategic planning,” a field that got a big boost in the 50s and 60s as it was introduced in large corporations.

How many strategic plans are sitting on your office’s shelves?

The trouble is, all of those settings were hierarchical, “command and control” structures. In those contexts, a strategy is successful as long as the communication down the chain of command is clear, and as long as the environment is relatively stable. Strategic planning, with its linear sequence of goals to objectives to activities to timelines to (you can fill in the blank) sets out what will happen in great detail, over a long time horizon, to meet a particular vision or set of organizational values. And that’s when the strategic plan is complete – we’ve seen plenty of plans that either didn’t have a sense of purpose, or weren’t specific enough for anyone to carry out.

More to the point, this kind of hierarchy isn’t the world most of us live in anymore. Much of our work requires collaboration, whether between organizations, or among units within the same organization. There’s often no one person that calls the shots. Instead of our old habits of command and control, we have to figure out how to align and activate a network of people and organizations. In this new context, a new approach to strategy is required. Although we are using the word “strategy” you can substitute change, transformation, growth, innovation. These are all functions of an organization, community, or regional economy that are resistant to the tools and approaches specifically designed for hierarchies. All of these functions are more horizontal in nature, demanding an entirely new way of thinking, behaving, and…doing.

Scott can work with you to design and guide a Strategic Doing process that is agile, iterative, and fast. You can begin seeing (and evaluating) your strategic progress right away. Strategic Doing is scalable. A team of 5-7 can work on one strategic focus area or several teams can move forward on multiple strategic fronts simultaneously. Here is what a typical Strategic Dong process looks like for one team of 5-7.

Phase 1: Strategic Doing Design Session. A Strategic Doing engagement begins with a “Design Session” at which Scott works with you to understand the strategic challenges you are facing and on which one(s) you we will work on together. A Design Session can take place via phone or web conference. More complex engagements may require doing this face to face. The deliverables from a design session are:

  • A Framing Question. This is a meticulously designed question that is appreciate and generative. It is a re-working of the strategic challenge on which we will focus into a question that points toward a version of the future for your organization, community, or region. A Strategic Doing Framing Question follows a research-based formula.
  • The Strategic Doing Experience Map. Together we will plan the experience we want your Strategic Doing Team to have at the first workshop. We will deliver an experience specifically designed for engagement of the entire team, assuring all the factors we know help lead to civility, trust, commitment, and follow through. We will also determine the timeframe and frequency of the team’s check-ins. These are typically every seven (7) days or every 30 days.
  • The Strategic Doing Team. A team consists of 5-7 people. During the Design Session we will discuss and come to a decision about the people to invite. The framing question will drive that decision. Deciding on the make up of this team is less about stakeholders and more about shareholders – who would find shared value in the future we’ve imagined in our framing question and who might have assets (specialized knowledge or expertise, capital, access to networks, etc.) that might be valuable in the future we envision?
  • The Invitation to Participation. Once we have our framing question and the people we hope to include, together we will craft the invitation to conversation that will be used to reach out to participants.

Phase 2: Strategic Doing Workshop One. This is the first of two 3-hour strategy workshops in which your team of 5-7 will work on the strategic issue we’ve identified. In this Strategic Doing Workshop Scott will guide a strategic conversation that will result in the following outcomes:

  • An inventory of the “assets” available to us that we think would be valuable in the future envisioned in that framing question
  • Three strategic opportunities that emerge when we link and leverage our assets in new ways.
  • One priority strategic outcome with three measurable characteristics of success
  • A pathfinder project with guideposts that enables us to get started and test our assumptions. The project we identify will be something that can be accomplished in a short amount of time.
  • A shared strategic action plan (v.1.0.) with each person committed to taking on a strategic task
  • A specific commitment (dates, times, locations) to come back together for our learning loops (every 7 days or every 30 days) to evaluate our progress, adjust if needed, and commit to next steps.

Phase 3: Learning Loops. After this initial Strategy Workshop, Scott will help support the three Learning Loop meetings via conference call or web conference. Your team could be in the same place and Scott will join via speaker phone or web conference. These Learning Loop meetings will take no more than one hour. Each of these three Learning Loop meetings will result in an updated Strategic Action Plan (v.1.1, 1.2. 1.3.)

Phase 4: Strategic Doing Workshop Two. This second Strategic Doing Workshop takes place after the execution of the pathfinder project. It will be preceded by another Design Session to define the scope of this workshop. Sometimes this workshop focuses on the next logical pathfinder project that should follow the first one, continuing to make ongoing progress on the initial strategic issue. In other instances, we may decide to begin working on another strategic focus area, scaling the use of Strategic Doing to more teams. These becomes a pivot point to decide if and how to expand the use of Strategic Doing for your organization, community, or region.

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