Solution Focused dialogue via disagreement at the ‘Kitchen Table’

How do you make sense of negative dialogue during strategic planning?

Changing the dialogue at the Kitchen Table

During a strategic planning project the client agreed to roundtable dialogue sessions. The organization was successful, but elements of its old culture made change difficult. We decided on three groups of roundtables: the customers, distributors and staff. In all three areas the client was worried that there would be disagreement and negativity. Hence, the use of ‘Kitchen table’ dialogue to overcome the negative perceptions.

My colleague Coert Visser kindly a blog that examines this interesting case where the organization had thought there was disagreement and resistance to change, and instead they created purposeful dialogue and progress.

Click here to view case

How do you handle negative dialogue in your organization?

More on ‘Kitchen table’ dialogue

 

 

When collaboration ‘kills innovation’ try co-creation

Finally, collaboration is in vogue! So why is someone saying that it kills innovation?

I’m sick of collaboration. It makes things mushy and kills innovation

So spoke a participant impatient for change at a recent planning session.

It could be that, in this person’s field, some of the collaborators are actually more interested in the politics, or the lowest common denominator, or worse … compromise!

…this means bringing diverse groups together to deal with ambiguity and complexity. Leaders must be adept at the use of influence as they will most likely be operating without power and authority over many of the participants.  Crossen and Olivera

Yes, innovators … you do have to be patient with the status quo. But, stop for a minute! How do you maintain your standard for moving forward, being ahead of the pack and collaborate through co-creation?

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.   Oliver Wendell Holmes

How do you get others to buy into your ideas without having to circumvent others and make progress faster then they appreciate? Avoid assuming that people are not ready for your idea, but instead they are:

  • Moving at a slower pace than you
  • In a different place, but are interested in similar outcomes as you are
  • Wanting to cooperate with you, just not your way
  • Not resisting your idea, but your impatience

Remember, that your innovative idea will come alive through test and learn practices. Why not co-create with those who might not actually be your detractors?

Solution focused co-creation ideas for the naturally impatient innovator:

Sell the benefit to them, not the idea itself. Ask yourself:

‘Suppose people were to buy in to my idea and engaged in its use, how would it be working for them? What would they be saying that they appreciate about it?’

Help them understand the idea by first asking:

‘Suppose it worked for you, what parts of it would please you most?’

When they raised objections to your idea ask:

‘Imagine that were no longer a problem, what would we be doing that works?’

‘What one thing do you see that might be done better and how would that be useful?’

Innovators, make your solution part of everyone’s solution by co-creating the Solution Focus way.

 

4 ways NFPs learn from the perils of bad strategy and lack of clarity

Management professor Richard Rumelt asserts that bad strategy abounds in organizations. Former CEO John Bell asserts clarity via strategic plans captured in one page. Not much to disagree with on both counts. They both focus on strategy for shareholder-driven business.

How does strategy apply to multi-stakeholder organizations, e.g., NFPs like hospitals, public service, fund-raising charities, and so on?

The principles of strategy apply equally to these organizations, however the practices have to fit the situation.

The critical strategy issue in large parts of the not-for-profit (NFP) sector is that many organizations are programme and budget driven. This makes them, at best, inefficient. They act incrementally – a new programme and a percent increase in budget have been the norm, and their funders have supported this. Whatever strategy does exist in NFPs can be either somewhat abstract or not outcome- focused. The plan induces status quo and fails to measure and improve the quality of what’s needed in the market or community as they may call it.

The following suggests ways to practice the strategy issues raised by Richard and John in the context of the public / NFP sector.

1. Take a leadership position.

The NFP sector does not enjoy the hierarchical structure that drives decision- making in for-profit organizations. NFPs often look to tools like policy to guide them when the policy is too complex, no policy exists, or the structure is out of date. As someone said, ‘In the absence of a clear plan, leadership matters.’ Better NFP strategy, i.e., outcomes-driven, will come from leadership by the board and executive staff.

2. Engage key stakeholders closely when planning.

In NFPs, it’s not often obvious who the customer is. Strategic planning requires engagement with key stakeholders. The purpose is not to get their wish-list, but to establish their perspective on what’s needed in order for the organization’s leadership to be decisive about the plan. Merge your fact-based data with what stakeholders are telling you – you’ll need their collaboration to make the plan happen!

3. Manage problem diagnosis and decide what needs to be different.

NFPs often tackle complex social or sectoral issues, few of which will be solved, or materialize opportunities easily. Strategists delve into extensive problem diagnosis. This makes it harder for the multi-stakeholder organization to know which of the many problems should be tackled. Strategies built on problems prevent the creativity that’s necessary to be focused and successful. Instead, clarify the problem by prioritizing and explore improved outcome opportunities. And. don’t overlook the NFP’s existing strengths and resources (of which there are always many more than perceived). The strengths/resources are the platform for the future strategy,.

4. Be clear on the difference between goals and strategy (and tactics).

NFP goals must be measurable in terms of outcomes, not just program delivery. Measure in a way that improves (not proves) quality. And, remember the line, be careful what you measure. It’s that simple!

What are your comments on we help NFPs (and for-profit’s) move in the direction John and Richard assert?

Want some ideas on how to develop the plan using solution focus?