Saturday, June 21, 2008

Strategy & Security

Insecurity robs an individual in so many areas and in so many ways. Its negative impact on interpersonal relationships and in team settings is massive. One area where insecurity robs is when it comes to strategic planning.

Some people really get excited by the process of strategic planning and thinking. I guess I am one of them. I love creating pathways that can potentially take individuals, families, organisations, teams, and you name it, forwards into a desired and preferred future to what exists today. I love it. I love the process and I love the potential of a well thought out and then well implemented plan.

Ben Lomenick, of Catalyst, recently posted some thoughts on turning ideas into reality on his blog. A process which is undoubtedly a part of strategic planning. His team massages ideas through the following stages…

Create - The more ideas on the board, the more opportunities for one of those to make it through the process. Criticize - Every idea, in order to stay in the process, has to be critiqued and criticized significantly. And make sure everyone doesn’t take things personal; criticizing an idea is much different than criticizing the person who came up with the idea. Optimize - Anything that makes it pass the criticize phase has to be built on. In some ways, this is a second and third wave of innovation. Validate - Every idea has to be validated; financially, operationally, personnel wise, and direction/vision related. Execute - it all comes down to getting things done. If it has gone through the entire process and made it to this point, the idea deserves the attention and focus to make sure it happens.

The above process provides a fantastic guide to the process that ideas and suggestions go through within strategic planning. This process though requires personal security on the part of the strategists. Taking for granted that the team is mature, critiques ideas not team members, endeavors only to bring the best out of each other etc; the strategic process still requires secure and robust people. Opinions are thrown around, often as gospel, fact and obvious best practice, by passionate and strong minded thinkers, (or feelers). These ideas are going off left, right and centre, team mates are jumping from one side of the issue to the other in seconds, others are playing the role of devil’s advocate, often nobody has the complete big picture of the issue at hand, and often you are trying to take an organisation, team, event or whatever, somewhere you have never been before. It’s exciting!

Insecurity in this setting though will seriously set the process back; it will rob the best from the strategic planning process. I’ll let you figure out why the following is detrimental to the strategic process, it’s reasonably obvious. Normally insecure strategists…

1. Won’t give ground when they argue about an idea or option, often which they see as being their personal case, rather than simply an idea or option.
2. Won’t take critical analysis of their ideas / suggestions personally and so team mates hold back from speaking the truth through fear of offending, or they just charge ahead, upset, and then have to sort out the pieces.
3. Close their ears to the ideas and perspectives of others, at times particular team mates and at times in regards to particular issues.
4. Cannot bring themselves to get excited about ideas that are not their own and too easily dismiss the suggestions of others.
5. Hold back on suggesting what they really think for fear of upsetting or being rebutted.
6. Struggle to put issues, ideas and concepts on the table to discuss while leaving personalities, history, and opinion of individuals on the couch.
7. And I’m sure you can think of numerous others.

Until insecurity is dealt with a planning team will only ever be able to fire at 60%. When insecurity is left behind though, teams can attack issues, not people, all guns blazing and come up with some incredible creative solutions and pathways forward.

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