Sustainable Strategic Change

Strategy Road SignIn a recent post we explored how the idea of the OODA Loop, created by US Air Force strategist, Colonel John Boyd, can clarify and focus strategic action.  This week, we are once again drawing from a strategic military process.  This time we are drawing on an approach from the new Army-Marine COIN, (Counter Insurgency), field manual that we learned about in an awesome book, Great Powers: America and the World After Bush, by Thomas P. M. Barnett.  (We urge you to buy, read, and share this important work!) As with the OODA Loop, we find the elegance of the summary of such sophisticated insight and thought truly exciting.  From our work in 2130 Partners to our participation in the global non-profit The Hunger Project, we find that transforming an existing condition or paradigm is what is at the heart of real, meaningful and lasting change. Processes like the OODA loop and those in the COIN field manual can be used to alter paradigms.  As summarized by Thomas Barnett, the COIN field manual outlines the process as:

  1. Diagnose – environments’ deficits
  2. Dialogue – with locals about how to address them
  3. Design – programs
  4. Learn – from application
  5. Redesign – programs over and over until local capacity has been built up

As usual, the process is simple at its core and not easy in its real world execution.

In practice in your organization it looks something like this:

  1. With your strategic vision or "Yonder Star" clearly in mind, examine the present and ask “What’s Missing – from our Yonder Star today that is most important to work on?”
  2. Engage with your leadership team, colleagues, or fellow community leaders, regarding their insights and proposals.  In working with The Hunger Project we say, “We stand with the hungry people as the solution, not the problem!” What shifts will occur if you relate to your associates the same way? In other words, how would you engage in conversations differently if you considered your employees, and colleagues as part of the solution, not the problem?
  3. Develop a shared understanding of the approaches, strategies, and actions that will have the highest leverage in moving towards fulfillment of the Yonder Star.
  4. Get to work and conduct regular reviews of effectiveness. What’s working and what’s not?  Where is course correction called for?
  5. Redesign and redirect the action until desired results are happening.
  6. Engage with each other regarding the growth and development of team members individually and collectively.  We call the shared knowledge and capabilities within the team "Collaborative Capacities."

We particularly call your attention to the last phrase of the COIN field manual “until local capacity has been built up.”  To us, that is Teamworkthe most critical notion of all when it comes to sustainability.  Command-and-control leadership and traditional service delivery models for development are fatally flawed in this regard. If local collaborative capacity building has not taken place, whether in a village in Afghanistan, or on the factory floor, programs fall apart as soon as the "top down providers" leave.

Here are some thoughts to jog your thinking about how this model can help you lead:

How does this “formula” give you new access to diagnosing your individual and collective leadership challenges?

How can you apply the “formula” to altering your historic way of operating and fill in missing steps in the empowerment process?

Are you willing to take the “formula” and actually get to work on accelerating your productivity and the effectiveness of your interactions?

Have you given your full attention to collaborative capacity building with your executive team? Your employees?

2010 - What's Your Plan?

Strategy, innovation and planning crosswordIf you have done the completion work we recommended in our last post, it’s time to move on to creating and documenting your 2010, (or longer), Yonder Star(s) and creating plans for fulfillment. If you have never taken the time to sit down and map out your Yonder Star, you might start by doing some thinking about real, meaningful New Year’s resolutions. You don't necessarily have to think of something new and different that you have never tried before. Most of us have "chronic resolutions," which are ones that we promise ourselves every year and at some point they get lost along the way. The difference this year should be to create an action plan and a timeline to go with your resolutions/goals. Breaking your vision down into the action steps you need to take to make it a reality will help you see each step of the path. Often big visions are not as daunting when you break them down into manageable pieces. The other key is timing. Create timeframes for your goals that are realistic for you. After you have written it, take your plan and keep it somewhere visible where you can refer to it often. If you bury it in a drawer or file somewhere it will just slip away beneath the current of your life.

One way to help yourself succeed is to make your resolutions “public” to others. To put more wind in your sails, promise others that you will deliver! You can ask someone you trust to be a "committed listener." This involves a commitment from them to listen to you as you talk about the status of your plans, your struggles and your successes. It does not involve them giving advice or telling you what to do next, (unless you make a specific request for it).

Another way to succeed is to hire a coach. Someone who is trained to support people in achieving their dreams and plans.

If you are a bit more experienced at this process, take a step up in rigor and create a set of goals for the different areas of your life. Categories you might include are: 1) Career/Financial 2) Well-Being or Health 3) Relationships 4) Spiritual 5) Personal 6) Wild Card

How bold are you willing to be setting your goals? If you are completely certain you can make the goals, are you roadjpgstretching yourself enough? Focus on designing the most catalytic, highly leveraged action steps you can. By catalytic we mean that your actions produce the intended results without your being used up in the process. By highly leveraged, we mean you produce very big results with minimal resources.

If you’ve been successful at this level of work and/or are ready to take on your first effort at a Strategic Plan for your company or affiliation, we suggest using what we call our “2130 Partners Hot Wired Strategic Plan.” We call it Hot Wired because it covers many of the levels and topics of an elaborate plan and yet you can produce a decent draft in a couple of hours. The first pass can then be developed to whatever level of detail you wish. The key, however, is to get the initial draft knocked out in as short a time as you can so that you shift your paradigm about goals and actions as you develop the more detailed plans. You can download the worksheet for our 2130 Partners Hot Wired plan by clicking here.