In the following weeks, I’ll talk about different ways to redirect your team(s) during and after COVID-19.
My new approach ‘R.E.S.E.T.’ aims to increase well-being, strengthen relationships and strategise forward. It will facilitate structure and clear, meaningful agreements for the whole team.
In March, I developed a practical approach for teams to grow in this new reality. Allow your department(s) to get a head start on the next big change!
It’s as easy as hitting a RESET button:
- Reconnect with your colleagues
- Explore together what worked well and what didn’t
- Strategise about what to stop – start – continue
- Engage with your team for remaining questions
- Test your action plan and determine next steps
After my two previous R.E.S.E.T. posts, let’s Strategise forward.
PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY, ALSO IN STRATEGIC BRAINSTORMING
For one of my clients, I had brought in a peer facilitator during team coaching sessions with a leadership team.
After finishing my part on co-creating strategic goals, we initiated discussions right at the point where some companies start to struggle: how to translate high level strategic goals as guiding principles into concrete actions, initiatives, tasks? Many a strategy has died on the battlefield where idea generation turns into continued, day-to-day execution. One of the reasons is a lack of crystal clear accountability.
What I liked about my colleague’s approach, is how he started asking simple, non-simplistic questions to the leaders. For example, with every suggestion from a participant, he asked: ‘If you would actually do that, would it become better or worse for the organisation?’, and then digging deeper into the suggestions that were put forward.
The positive effect was that participants in the room were gently forced to allow for useful deviations. Also, a multitude of unlocked potential in terms of concrete practices in the company were shared. Due to the high degree of psychological safety that was created during the sessions, this was the 1st time that this team dared to voice wild, seemingly crazy ideas amongst each other. This was brainstorming at its best, where half-finished ideas and thought experiments have their place.
Here are 6 invitations for your strategic planning (= making your strategy explicit for the first time / updating your strategy):
1) Start with ‘why’
The most simple definition of strategy is the emanation of your mission statement, your purpose as an organisation or team.
Purpose gives you direction, strategy gives you the directions.
These initial mission driven discussions should engender lots of existential sparks in the room, as they’re about why people would like to come out of their bed in the morning. It’s about their reason of being in your team and your organisation (= their professional identity). Hence: relevant to all. The question ‘why we do what we do as a team or organisation’ will provide different answers. In my role as a facilitator, in this stage, I would encourage constructive disagreement.
=> What’s Your Purpose As A Team Or Organisation?
2) Constantly take physical or mental notes on ‘selling strategy’
I remember a very likeable, somewhat introverted professional with plenty of skills and expertise. However, ‘selling’ his message was a missing element in order to be perceived an authority.
Setting fire on strategy is a different ball game than the creative phase where you’re defining strategic goals. Constantly jot down ideas on how to market strategy inside (and sometimes outside) your team or organisation.
=> How Will You Make Strategy Stick In Your Team Or Organisation?
3) Set-up an interactive follow-up platform that is ‘lean and mean’
In a constantly changing world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (‘V.U.C.A.’), a strategy needs just about enough revisioning and updating.
At a high-tech company I know, periodic discussions take place simultaneously on both the short and long term strategy of the company. A healthy organisational practice!
=> Don’t Forget To Measure Progress In Any Goal Achievement.
4) Focus on a limited number of strategic goals
‘Focus’ means: expending your energy on a limited number of goals.
Let me present some lines to you by Pierre Nanterme, former CEO of Accenture. Deceased at the age of 59, he spent 36 years of his life at the company:
‘That’s the big challenge for large organisations – the lack of focus, the fragmentation, too many initiatives. When a CEO tells me: ‘Pierre, we have a great change plan, and I have 30 programs I am launching’, I say: ‘If you have 30 programs, you have no vision, Mr. CEO. Tell me five things you want to do, and you’ll transform your organisation. But if you have 30 extraordinary detailed programs across the world, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to stand for and where you’re going to make a difference. (…) The name of the game today is to be famous for something, to scale rapidly, to focus a lot and to take a leadership position. If you fragment yourself, you’re dead.’
=> What Are Three Strategic Goals You Will Be Focusing On?
5) Combine clear communication (= understandable) with meaningful communication (= inspirational).
Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and a number of other life sciences partners are prominently in the frontline in the Covid-19 vaccine development.
This is what Paul Stoffels, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer at J&J, declared some weeks ago:
‘We have set a high bar. Johnson & Johnson has committed to rapidly produce and supply more than one billion doses of a safe and effective vaccine globally.’
A daring moonshot goal. I love it.
Compare that with lots of strategic goals in the spirit of becoming nr. 1 in an industry. What is mostly understood is: the number 1 in terms of merely financial strength.
=> What’s Inspiring For People To Align Their Behavior With Your Strategic Goals?
6) Bring the right people together
I’ve developed a small formula for ensuring the right people to show up and actively participate to strategic planning sessions.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
Porter, Collins, Rumelt, newsletters, sound advice from business schools: you can look at strategy from so many useful viewpoints that it might become confusing.
One lens seems inescapable: how does the strategy of your team or organisation contribute to a more sustainable world? Not an easy exercise to make, but far from impossible.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework gives you a very practical handle for initiating discussions that are also more-than-profit driven.
Japanese logistic company Nippon Express does the opposite of ‘value dressing’ when it comes to sustainability. For instance, the organisation is audited by external parties on SDG implementation. They take the matter serious and weave sustainable goals into their operational processes.
That’s another thing about this oftentimes vague concept, ‘strategy’. Should you and others in the room hear yourself promote your newly designed strategic goals, and it still sounds Right (= more than a profit driven discussion only): perhaps you’re heading in the right direction.