“Are you happy to outsource your strategic thinking process?”

by Didier Marlier on Sunday November 7th, 2010

Would you find wise, as a leader, to outsource the most critical, educational and engaging process of your organization? This is what happens though when we delegate our strategic reflection to third parties.

Nick van Heck (our partner from ELP Network) has come up with a word: “Strategizing”, or the process by which organizations engage the widest possible number of their people into co-creating the future of their organization and in the same time, lift up the level of their collective game (what is sometimes called Thought Leadership or “creating an intelligent organization”).

For him, the quality of “Strategy Enactment” (suggesting a company-wide engagement in delivering the strategy) is a function of four levers:

  • The quality of the engagement: Our whole book “Engaging leadership” deepens that topic but suffices to say that engagement is ensured through the intellectual, behavioural and emotional agendas
  • The intrinsic quality of the strategy: obviously remains a prerequisite
  • Strategizing or the continuous process of living, adapting, rethinking the strategy, is also supported by the quality of the dialogue between people and the quality of their interactions: selfish, political agendas, lack of trust, silo thinking do not concur to a quality dialogue.
  • Finally the quality of leadership and behaviours is obviously fundamental.

Strategizing differs from Strategy in the following way:

  • It is a permanent process instead of a yearly event: Strategizing allows frequent updates, constant upgrades from the strategy. I was in a meeting once with the SBU of a global multinational. Its executive team was embarrassed that some information was emerging, from their organization, suggesting they might have to retouch the strategy. Their issue was that it has just been accepted by the Board after painful back and forth iterations and days to prepare the perfect ideal powerpoints. One can understand the reluctance of this team. But when Strategizing is a permanent process, where maintaining today’s business running efficiently and readying for any opportunity to upgrade, one is less captive of the strategy previously sold to the Board
  • Strategizing is about preparing the future and not guessing it: If strategy is parked in our implicit memory as a “moment in time” then the tendency is to try and guess what it will be. But if strategizing is a permanent process and stated, organized as such, it becomes a continuum by which we will constantly remain prepared for the future. The complexity and fast pace of today’s environment advocates far more for the second concept.
  • It is not an elitist process: “Sharing the strategy with our people? You must be mad, it is way too secret to be widely spread!”. I couldn’t believe my ears when this P.A. jumped in support of her boss in that bank (which unsurprisingly went through rough times shortly after). If strategy is a closed discussion reserved to the elite, strategizing is a unique way to create an intelligent and connected organization and a great way to engage people in defining and owning the future of their organization. Strategizing is a process which enables people to co-create meaning, clarity and ownership about the strategic direction towards which their company should head. In a later post I will tell you of how SRC and its CEO Jack Stack did it.

At the time where everybody wants to grow, the total, uncompromising and unconditional support of their people will be key in making it happen. Strategizing is definitely a great way to create Mass Engagement around the strategy.

Globe-trotting week ahead with visits, design meeting and workshop in Brussels (home sweet home), Paris, Geneva and Helsinki. Have a great week all.

Didier

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2 Responses to ““Are you happy to outsource your strategic thinking process?””

  1. Didier,
    I think (too?) many organisations ‘outsource’ the strategy development process, typically to top-tier consultancies. An obvious concern with this is the authenticity and ownership of the strategy. If the CEO should be the embodiment of the strategy, and the strategy should be in some harmony with the organisation, an ‘outsourced’ strategy is probably going to miss the mark.
    Building on Nick’s ‘strategizing’ concept, isn’t this what the empowered knowledge worker of today is actually doing – responding real-time to customer and market dynamics?
    Thanks again for the stimulating thoughts…
    Regards,
    Chris

    Reply

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