This guest post is by Greg Collins of Collins Consulting. Greg focuses on both individual and organizational change as the means of delivering results and is leading the first in a series of master classes focused on change management. Register now for his November 2nd workshop, Creating and Implementing Strategy Amidst Change, which will be held at the Westin Copley in Boston.
As I prepare to lead the upcoming Master Class Workshop on Strategic and Organizational Change Management, I reread John Kotter’s 2012 HBR article “Accelerate.” His view that strategy is a “dynamic force that constantly seeks opportunities, identifies initiatives that will capitalize on them, and completes those initiatives swiftly and efficiently” is in lock step with the way I have approached strategy development and implementation over the last 20 years as both an operator and a consultant.
When I think about developing strategies that actually make a difference, these four components are essential:
- Start with purpose and vision: Why the organization exists and what the organization will look like at a specific point in the future
- Make sure the strategy development process is on-going, not episodic, and disciplined
- Be Inclusive: Include people at all levels throughout the organization
- Engage people’s hearts as well as their heads
- Start with Purpose and Vision:
Stephen Covey said, “Start with the end in mind” in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The same statement is as relevant for organizations as it is for people. When we think about organizations, “vision” is what we’re going to look like when we get there; “purpose” is why we felt it was worth bothering to get there in the first place. Why start with purpose and vision? Because they’re the anchors for strategy, and because they excite people– more on that topic toward the end of this blog.
As a friend once told me, “If we don’t know where we’re going, any train will get us there.“ It’s essential that we know where we’re going, our vision, before we start to think about how we’re going to get there. And that’s what strategy is. It’s how we’re going to get to our destination, our vision, our desired future state. The essence of strategy is making choices – do we take the train, bus, or Uber?
- Strategy Is Ongoing, Not Episodic:
Strategy, when done well, is a way of thinking that permeates an organization from top to bottom. It’s a mindset that says, “There’s always a better way to do whatever it is we’re doing.” Far too often, organizations – whether private sector, nonprofit, or government – approach strategy as an episodic obligation that once “completed” can be put on the shelf and revisited in a few years. Strategic thinking is a continuous cycle, not a line with a beginning and an end. And strategic thinking, like any discipline, follows a couple of rules: it’s fact based and it questions everyone’s unquestioned assumptions. If we use data, both qualitative and quantitative, challenge our assumptions and beliefs, and keep repeating that cycle – we’ll surprise ourselves with the strategic insights we generate. And, looping back to the Kotter quote at the beginning of the blog, strategy is done continuously.
- Be Inclusive:
Adapting to change is the responsibility of the whole business, not just the top echelon. Unfortunately, that’s not the way change is typically addressed in most organizations. Responding to change and developing strategy are often the responsibility of an organization’s senior managers, who then delegate the implementation to those lower down in the organization. And because the implementers weren’t involved in crafting the strategy, the first speed bump they hit generally causes the strategy to be put on the shelf while the organization reverts to what it’s most comfortable doing. To be effective, strategy development needs to include people from throughout the organization. It’s essential that we collect and incorporate the knowledge and insights of people with multiple perspectives.
- Engage People’s Hearts as Well as Heads:
While inclusivity is important, there’s still one more step – engaging our colleagues’ hearts in addition to their heads. People want to know in their hearts that their input into the strategy matters and they want to feel that where they’re going matters too. That last thought brings us back to the importance of purpose and vision that we talked about at the start of this blog. It’s essential that we engage their hearts, their passion, and their spirit. It’s the fire that comes from that level of engagement that enables us to overcome the inevitable roadblocks that we confront as we implement any strategy.
If you’re one of those people who, like me, believes that clear, compelling strategy that actually gets implemented, and actually delivers results is essential to thriving in this world of increasingly rapid change – please join me, ideally with a colleague or two, at the Master Class Workshop, Creating and Implementing Strategy Amidst Change on November 2nd.