Managing Multi-Thread Strategic Complexity

Posted by Matthew Thomas

 
 
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matthew-thomas-2.jpgThe inventor of the microscope, Anton Van Leeuwenhoek, was amazed at the complexity of organisms he discovered upon a closer look at pond water. What looked more or less clear to the naked eye displayed high complexity once subjected to even the most basic magnification. 

A strategy's complexity increases as the process moves from high-level vision, mission, values, and principles through strategic themes and into the overall strategic map of what goes where, when, and by whom. The same questions we ask when we first enter in to a strategic process (why, who, what, how, when, where) now move deeper into the organization as the core leadership hands off the strategy to the leaders and teams who support them. This pivot from the Thinking phase of a strategy to the Act phase of a strategy often trips us up.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now!We often perceive strategic planning to be somehow linear - "ever onward and upward." We all know it to be more complex than that. Tying projects to strategic themes, getting the right teams assembled, making sure timing is correct - all of these things add complexity that itself has to be managed.

A strategic mapping process helps to visualize multiple themes, threads, projects, teams, and so on as they all move through the strategy. This map helps keep the whole project moving as a whole.

Some strategic plans build timing into their plans at a granular level - much like a football timing play: "Get to the 20 yard line, count 5-Mississippi, and then cut left, and the ball will be in your hands." Some organizations have both the data (to know how long something takes) and the leadership (to keep everyone moving together) to be able to set up projects with timing like that. Others look a bit more like a Rube Goldberg machine - it gets the job done, but my, oh, my, did it need to go like that? Still others look like a spider's web - and not one of those symmetrical orb weaver jobs, mind you, but more like arachnid trip-wires running every which-way.

(Related: Strategic Flexibility)

Whatever an organization's preferred mode of operating, keeping the timing right is often the biggest challenge to project success at this stage of the strategy process. TAD is a tool that can increase an organization's capacity to manage the complexities of the timing of the different themes and initiatives in a strategic plan. For instance, the 1-Year Road Map shows initiatives (projects) grouped by theme, with the planned schedule, the current date, and the current progress for each initiative. For each, it's possible to drill down in and see what is actually going on for each initiative and manage it from there.

Tad1YearRoadMap.png

Adjusting to the changes brought about by pieces of a strategy moving at different speeds, some with different success or failure rates often causes strategic plans to get thrown out or shelved. Things evolve differently than planned more often than not. Keeping the timing right helps to increase the success rate - and visualizing the process helps when the inevitable adjustments must be made to keep the overall strategy on track.

How can I find out more?

As a TAD-Certified Consultant and member of the TAD Partner program, I can walk you through a demonstration of the software and work with you to see if TAD would be a good fit for your organization or project. Feel free to call 1.877.771.3330 x20 or e-mail me. If you would like to see more about the software directly from adaQuest, visit http://www.adaquest.com/services/vision-realization/

 

 
 
 
 
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Topics: Matthew Thomas, strategic planning, strategy, organizational strategy, Act, TAD, Think, Deliver

Strategic Flexibility

Posted by Matthew Thomas

 
 
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matthew-thomas-2.jpgIn my part of the world, wind gusts are the stuff of legend - and reality. Fully loaded semitrailers have been known to blow off the highway onto their sides from them. Tall buildings are designed to sway or flex with the wind. We have mile after mile of ghostly gray-white windmills silently generating electricity. These winds are known to break rigid structures, while flexible ones survive the buffeting.

One of the reasons strategic plans get shelved before their time boils down to the plan's ability to flex with changing conditions - internal successes and failures, of course, but more often changes in the organization's external environment. Plans with incredible precision but without flexibility are often the first casualty of early success.

Photo Credit: News-Gazette. Highway sign on I-74 in East Central IllinoisOn-the-fly adjustments will always be necessary. Nevertheless, many organizations find building those adjustments into plans to be a considerable challenge. As is human tendency, we end up in a polarity of excessively detailed, layered, branched flowcharts; or making it up as we go, knowing it will all work out in the end.

Two approaches, working in tandem, help to keep plans clear and on track, even while navigating through windy conditions.

  1. Clear Communication plans. This sounds like a no-brainer. It is, but. Communication plans often struggle when purpose isn't clear, when lack of trust is (or even appears to be) the driver, and when plans don't display mutual benefit to all parties involved. Those things quickly change communication plans into dreaded paperwork. Clear communication plans keep information flowing where it needs to in ways that improve everyone's capacity to complete their work.Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now!
  2. Strategic Triggers. These are aspects of solid strategic plans developed by leadership teams that posit a variety of situations across major sectors of the organizational environment to which the leaders will need to respond. Perhaps the stock market rises (or drops) 40% in a month. Perhaps new regulations that affect core business come into effect, or old ones expire. Most industries have specific things they watch. This just puts them in place and creates a series of "first thoughts" about what might be done under those new circumstances: whether the plan has to be reworked from first principles, or whether minor adjustments can be made, or more typically, somewhere in between.

(Related: Prioritization and Strategy Implemenatation)

The TAD process we have described over the last two weeks brings both of those approaches together in the Think phase. As a leadership team strategizes and prioritizes strategic themes, communication plans and strategic triggers get baked right in to the overall plan. This allows for the flexibility needed to adjust - so all the time, energy, money, and frustration of planning is not wasted the first time something unexpected blows in. In most cases, this starts from the first actual meeting to begin the TAD process.

How can I find out more?

As a TAD-Certified Consultant and member of the TAD Partner program, I can walk you through a demonstration of the software and work with you to see if TAD would be a good fit for your organization or project. Feel free to call 1.877.771.3330 x20 or e-mail me  at matthewmthomas [at] designgroupintl [dot] com. If you would like to see more about the software directly from adaQuest, visit http://www.adaquest.com/services/vision-realization/

 
 
 
 
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Topics: Matthew Thomas, strategic planning, strategy, organizational strategy, Act, TAD, Think, Deliver

Introducing TAD: Software-supported strategy and implementation

Posted by Matthew Thomas

 
 
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matthew-thomas-2.jpgI spent a good chunk of last week in Washington State training on software that helps organizations move smoothly from strategic planning through to specific projects that support strategic initiatives. It's called TAD, and produced by a company called adaQuest. TAD stands for Think, Act, Deliver. This is representative of a process orientation to planning and management.

 

Why use TAD?

 

Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now!Let's face it: it's hard to work from a pre-planning, strategic development position all the way through to the specific projects the strategy requires, and be able to flexibly adjust and iterate the plan along the way. Many strategic plans end up shelved for a lack of ability to adjust to changing conditions, or a lack of process orientation through the plan's creation.

(Related: Business Modeling and Sales Development)

 

TAD provides a software framework to assess current organizational state, support strategic planning, and then implement the plan through high-level initiatives and specific projects. TAD strengthens the consultative process by giving the organization the means to carry projects forward without having to embed consultants quite so deeply in day-to-day operations.

 

How can I find out more?

 

As a TAD-Certified Consultant and member of the TAD Partner program, I can walk you through a demonstration of the software and work with you to see if TAD would be a good fit for your organization or project. Feel free to call 1.877.771.3330 x20 or e-mail me at matthewmthomas [at] designgroupintl [dot] com. If you would like to see more about the software directly from adaQuest, visit http://www.adaquest.com/services/vision-realization/

 

I'm really excited about this new tool! Check it out!

 

 
 
 
 
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Topics: Matthew Thomas, strategic planning, strategy, adaQuest, TAD

Strategic Planning: How to Design People-Passion into your work

Posted by Matthew Thomas

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matthew-thomas-2I often find that one of the biggest challenges for any enterprise is connecting the Why and the What to the (right) Who. We may have a great sense of purpose (purpose for us, and purpose for others). We may have a great set of services, products, methods, resources, or materials. We may even have some idea of the people we want to reach. But we may struggle when it actually comes to assessing who those people are when we come face to face with them. We may have trouble focusing on the right demographics to help us be the most effective. And we may have trouble filtering out perfectly nice people who don't fit what we are trying to do. Nevertheless, good strategic planning requires assessment, focus and filter if we ever plan to accomplish anything. 

I have struggled with this myself, and to help bring clarity to assessing, focusing and filtering as I need to do, I developed a tool I call the Passion Design Tool. It has helped me tremendously in all three areas, in a short period of time. I'd like to share the process with you today.

Here's how the process works:

Passion-who-resultsStep 1:

Choose 5 – 7 areas you find important for your enterprise model and your goals. List the most vital areas you see for connecting your passion and your work. Look for defining demographics.

Step 2:

Now, define 4 – 7 categories for each of those areas of importance, representing the variation in how those areas are expressed.

Step 3:

Now, rank each one of those items on a 1 – 4, 5, 6, or 7 scale (depending on how many categories you use), within the grid provided above.

Step 4:

Order the categories so you can see what your area of passion is. Place each category item in its rank order, left to right.

Step 5:

Describe your Primary Passion (1) and your Secondary Passion (2) by naming the category items in priority order. For example, if you think your category #5 is the most important, start by describing there, and move down your priority list from there. 

That's it!

That's the basic process. I have found that it works particularly well when our goals are to do good while doing well. That helps us align our personal passions with the needs of others and the greater community. 

I have created a tool to map this process out on paper, so it's easier to see. The Passion Design Tool is available here. I'm happy to share this version of the tool with you for free! 

 

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Topics: strategic planning methods, strategic planning, doing good while doing well, passion

Getting Results in Organizational Leadership: Measurement of Success

Posted by Matthew Thomas

In their recent paper, “Wheel Forward or Spiral Downward,” Design Group International’s Mark L. Vincent and Stezala Consulting’s Kim Stezala discuss how measuring results (or success and failure) in an organization is one of the most difficult things to do – and how it drastically affects the results and outcomes we generate and receive. 

Nowhere is this more true than in many outreach initiatives developed by local governments, non-profits, churches and faith-based organizations. Often, the organization in question decides to do some sort of outreach – whether just for the common good, or to grow their organization’s reach / membership, or some combination of the two. However, organizations often do these things without a clear sense of what the expected results should be. Or, they expect such results as to make anything that happens in reality a sad shadow of the pictures painted in their minds.

At that point, a great re-measurement begins: usually, it becomes a matter of if whatever happened (or didn’t happen) was acceptable to the group, not a matter of measuring what actually happened. Unclear, vague measurements based on dreams and desires (not really based in experience or understanding) at the outset often then give way to results measured by “if we liked it, or if we are ok with it, or if we are resigned to it,” rather than a matchup of effort to outcome. In many ways, this is a denial of failure. Nevertheless, only when we can declare failure when it happens can we also find true success when it happens.

Read the whitepaper, Wheel Forward or Spiral Downward, by clicking the link below!

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Topics: Matthew Thomas, Design Group International, Organizational Leadership, Results, executive coaching, strategic planning

Getting Results in Organizational Leadership: Relevance of Goals

Posted by Matthew Thomas

The relevance of the goals we set consistently shapes the results and outcomes we generate and receive.  How well do our shorter-term goals line up with our purpose? How well do our means measure up with our ends? If our purpose is, for instance, measured in terms of societal or personal impact, and our goals fixate on dollars and individuals on our mailing list, sometimes our goals could be really irrelevant.

Choose goals that make sense relative to your purpose – or else you will likely get results that don’t match up at all with your purpose.

Design Group International offers strategic mapping and executive coaching services to help you and your organization develop healthy goals that match your purpose. Click the link below to contact us!

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Topics: Matthew Thomas, Design Group International, Organizational Leadership, Results, executive coaching, strategic planning

Getting Results in Organizational Leadership: Initiative

Posted by Matthew Thomas

The way we take initiative in opportunity – both to take advantage of opportunities and to create opportunities – consistently shapes the results and outcomes we generate and receive. Taking advantage of opportunities involves recognizing opportunities and acting upon them; creating opportunities involves positioning ourselves to be available (or more readily available) when opportunities arise or working with others to create the space for new things to develop.

This almost always comes from an assertive stance, with a vision toward the future that is greater than the status quo of the present. While in some situations an aggressive stance is warranted, in many cases in business and other organizational relationships, it is seen as too strident. Passivity, of course, means that only the most obvious and accidental of opportunities become available to us.

The assertive stance creates perspective and margin to allow for something to come in to being that was not previously available or possible. This stance prepares for the “next thing” by making sure there is financial and relational space to do something new, and a skill or capacity that can move the organization and people in it to the next level.

Design Group International offers strategic mapping and executive coaching services to help you and your organization develop healthy initiative for opportunity. Click the link below to contact us!

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Topics: Matthew Thomas, Design Group International, Organizational Leadership, Results, executive coaching, strategic planning

Getting Results in Organizational Leadership: Personality

Posted by Matthew Thomas

 

Our personality preferences consistently shape the results and outcomes we generate and receive. How we habitually see the world and interact with it and the people in it will shape areas where we tend to have success and areas where we tend to struggle. This is why in any organization it is important for key leaders to be aware of their personality type and preferences for interaction and make sure those around them have some level of intentional personality diversity.

In the organizations in which I have been a part, I find myself to be in the funnel point between the strategic visionaries and the tactical practical types. If everyone were one or the other (or if there were none of us in the middle to make the connections), an organization would get bogged down.

Design Group International offers strategic mapping and executive coaching services to help you and your organization develop balanced organizations. Click the link below to contact us!

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Topics: Matthew Thomas, Design Group International, Organizational Leadership, Results, executive coaching, strategic planning

Getting Results in Organizational Leadership: Relationships

Posted by Matthew Thomas

Our relationships consistently shape the results and outcomes we generate and receive. Our ability to get others to do what we want directly affects the results we get. Of course, many times, and for many leaders, this involves compulsion, threats, manipulation, quid pro quo, bribery, blackmail, extortion and sometimes just plain old lying. Nevertheless, for leaders who want to operate with some level of integrity and leave a legacy without leaving a bad taste in the mouths of those to whom we relate, those options aren’t really on the table.

How we relate to others – and to whom we relate – gives shape to our organizational results. The relationships we value have greater power in our decisions than those we don’t value as highly.  We will find it easier to relate to certain groups of people and extremely difficult to relate to others.  But relationships are based in choice – how we will choose to interact with another person or group of people.

In organizational life, we must be very intentional about our relationships – in our organizations, we often relate to others we would not otherwise typically connect with. Moreover, to grow an organization, business or enterprise of any type, we must stretch to relate to others we would not otherwise spend time with. 

In organizational life we set aside our personal preferences for the people we relate to most easily and develop relationships with a wide variety of people. With whom do you relate in your organization?

Design Group International offers strategic mapping and executive coaching services to help you and your organization develop healthy relationships – internally and externally. Click the link below to contact us!

 

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Topics: Matthew Thomas, Design Group International, Organizational Leadership, Results, executive coaching, strategic planning

Getting Results in Organizational Leadership: Obligations

Posted by Matthew Thomas

Our obligations drastically shape the results and outcomes we generate and receive. We may be obligated to certain stakeholders or a particular person or group that empowers or authorizes our work. Leaders and bosses often have obligations to their staff and subordinates. Nearly all of us have some kind of family obligations. Most of us have significant financial obligations. These obligations shape our capacity to work and innovate, and limit what options for opportunity we can select.

Our obligations do not merely end at our finances and family: we all have people to whom we are obligated even if we are not fully conscious of it – our tribe, to use current language. Our tribe can include our friends and family, neighbors, ethnic group, or nationality but also people who are no longer alive whose values and memory we sustain.

In order for us to achieve the results and outcomes we desire, our obligations need to be clear to us and serve to, as much as possible, move us toward our goals and aspirations. If our obligations are inconsistent with our goals, we may have to re-examine both our obligations and our goals.

We will never be free from obligations – they are part of our relational, social being. Nevertheless, they, too, can be put to good use to shape our outcomes if we consciously begin to choose which obligations to fulfill and which to challenge.

Design Group International offers strategic mapping and executive coaching services to help you and your organization discover and work through the complexity of your obligations. Click the link below to contact us!

 

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Topics: Matthew Thomas, Design Group International, Organizational Leadership, Results, executive coaching, strategic planning