14 Ways to Co-create a Strategic Framework and Get Buy-in

Having trouble making sense of the strategy everyone bought into a year ago? Wondering if the organization isn’t equipped for the challenges you face?

Some say that culture eats strategy for lunch suggesting that the two are mutually exclusive and that one is superior. Under pressure for being touchy-feely, culture fans like to strike out at strategy as being rigid and unbending in the face of constant change.

How about we see them as twins rather than opponents?

How about co-creating strategy so that organizational buy-in happens as you proceed and organizational culture is supported?

Here’s an approach that many clients have successfully utilized:

Take the longer view that the new overall strategic framework will take some time to be fully realized.

Work with the notion that the new strategy must be proactive and innovative to meet ever-evolving, and usually unknowable, needs and change.

Understand that the plan is a beginning point / framework and that the outcomes, over time, will likely be influenced by other emergent forces.

Create a stronger sense of opportunity and accountability to collaborate among the organization and help make the new strategy work despite the unknowns.

Use dialogue sessions to come to an initial common understanding of the larger needs of both the organization and key partner / stakeholder groups (including the customer).

Understand and leverage the team’s capability to influence and enable change. Help them by focusing on solutions, not the SWOT analysis.

Move away from the perspective of silos and reactive work-arounds.

Understand the value of building a business case that enables decision- making; making decisions about the unknown are critical to progress.

Seek participatory dialogue and insights from the key partner / stakeholders.

Leverage candor and transparency – challenging the status quo leads to better ideas.

Ensure a focused and dynamic planning dialogue so that it can be distilled into a comprehensive plan.

Ensure that operational planning can be undertaken following the plan’s approval.

Work on the basis that change begins within the planning work, not once the plan is approved.

Create early ideas for action (test and learn, small wins) that will be visibly useful to all.

Solution focus: an enabler of strong strategic frameworks.


Four Quotes to Juice up Your Change Project

Wondering why your change project isn’t going as planned? Here’s few insights on making sustainable progress…starting with the quotes.

  • ‘A powerful question alters all thinking and behaving that occurs afterwards.” Marilee Goldberg
  • ‘Change is happening all the time. Our role is to identify useful change and amplify it.’ Gregory Bateson
  • ‘The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.’ William James
  • ‘People are trying to collaborate all the time…just not each other’s way’ Jim Duval

Tell me more, I hear you saying…

  • ‘A powerful question alters all thinking and behaving that occurs afterwards.”

In Solution Focus we call them ‘better questions’. For better change management questions, see below.

  • ‘Change is happening all the time. Our role is to identify useful change and amplify it.’

Resisters, (let’s call them traditionalists) have always previously engaged in change – they just don’t fully realize it. So, we can ask them, ‘When you achieved change on (project name) in the past, what worked?’ This helps them self-identify their under-utilized change skills. The leader then asks, ‘Suppose we used those skills on our new change project, what would happen?’

  • ‘The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.’

Humans are experts in telling you about the problems that prevent them from making progress, and it’s usually the other person. Overlooking the problem conversation is often difficult, but when we do we can ask, ‘So, what would you like to do instead?’, or “If the problem went away, what would be happening?” Their answers start to define what they want, i.e., their goal

  • ‘People are trying to collaborate all the time…just not each other’s way’

Organizations are full of people trying to collaborate, but because they have only a few shared goals (usually elusive), and many diverse goals, they appear to be in conflict with each other. They are using their own unique collaboration model, not a shared one. So, try this question, ‘Suppose we achieve (shared goal), what will we be doing to achieve that?’ and ‘How will that be useful in achieving the goal?’

Points to remember when you use these questions

  • Ask not tell (listen!)
  • Remember they are the expert not you
  • You do not need to have all the answers
  • Find the resources and small steps will follow
  • Enable people to realize and own the choices they have

Thanks to my colleague Mark McKergow for introducing me to the first three quotes and for framing the points to remember

More on Solution Focus

How to Make the Most of Change – Now!

“Organizations need to be nimble so that they can better manage and adapt to the changes that are going to happen anyway” – Kevin Aguanno

A while ago I wrote that we have to not only adapt to change, but get in front of change. I also frequently advocate Solution Focus is the way to do it. It’s not the only way, but the best way to make change happen.

As Kevin Aguanno says, change is going to happen anyway. We don’t have much of a say in that, do we!

Or, do we?

Solution focus is the smart way to change. The approach is surprisingly simple, if counter intuitive. But, by leveraging our intuitive and our rational mind we can achieve a lot in a shorter period than we expect. How?

Two of the founders of the approach, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer noticed the following approach (not necessarily in this order), helped people’s problems better right away:

  • What’s already working (that we don’t have to change)
  • Suppose the problem we face went away, what would be happening instead?
  • Suppose we were successful, what small steps would we see ourselves taking right way

While there is nothing startling about these ideas, it’s the application of them without stopping to examine the problem that makes the difference. Overlooking the problem is often the hard part. But, by setting aside our curiosity about problems in favour of these three perspectives we open up great possibilities. Sustainable possibilities!

Where can we apply this in business? Almost anywhere. It as a simple and stable platform for initiating progress everywhere we seek to deal with change.

To look at how this approach works and where we might apply it in our day-to-day practices, more on Solution Focus

Applying Solution Focus for Creating Sustainable Businesses

Challenges for Sustainability v3.0 in businesses:

Guest blog post by my colleague: Venkat Subramanian Somasundaram BEng,MBA, Business & Sustainability Consultant and a supporter of Solution Focus.

My latest paper on Sustainability v3.0 attempts to define the forthcoming Sustainability initiatives in businesses organizations, Sustainability 3.0. The paper also identifies the three anticipated key challenges for Sustainability 3.0 and initiates discussion on how can we collectively solve them using Solution Focused change techniques.

Sustainability v3.0:

So, how does Sustainability 3.0 look like? It is a state in which all employees in the organization realize the importance of sustainable business practices and make decisions while coordinating with all relevant stakeholders. The key challenge for Sustainability 3.0 is Engagement.

After analyzing global reports and white papers during 2011, the three key challenges for sustainability 3.0 were identified:

1.  Creating Change Leaders (tribal leaders) for total engagement:

Building an enduring corporate culture of sustainability in the business organization, where all employees are totally engaged in the formulation and implementation of sustainability initiatives, is the greatest challenge for sustainability in businesses. How can we create change leaders or influencers at all levels of the organization to promote sustainability?

2.  Communicating the Value Proposition to businesses

How did companies end up embracing “Quality” as an organization wide norm “Total Quality Management (TQM)”? How can thevalue proposition of “sustainability” be communicated so that it becomes a cultural norm or policy within businesses?

3.  Co-creating policies that promote Good Growth:

How can the businesses, governments and all related stakeholders co-create policies that promote good growth (financially, socially and environmentally sustainable)?

Need for Solutions Focus Change:

It’s high time we stop speaking about problems faced by companies, environmentalists, consumers, and governments in the field of sustainability. The repeated recession strikes on the economy should accelerate our actions in making the world more sustainable and arrive at comprehensive solutions quickly.

My question: How do we solve these 3 key challenges for sustainability initiatives in businesses using solution focus change techniques?

For an in-depth version of Venkat’s blog post click here