If you are facing headwinds in your strategic initiative, examine the situation from four leadership perspectives: storytelling, learning, integration, and decisions. (You can find an explanation of the four LIDS roles in this article). As an example, let’s look at the struggles of Angie, a program manager at an internet security firm. She wrote in an email, “I have a number of issues and problems with my strategic initiative.” She proceeded to describe her difficulties with her executive sponsors, priorities, reporting and the timing.
In complex situations that are typical of strategic initiatives, it is important to gain perspective and that is the benefit of the SLID roles. I asked Angie to spend 30 minutes on an exercise. I asked her to use this template,
When I placed myself in the role of _____, I realized ____.
The first blank is the role and the second blank is for elaborate the issues and possible solutions.
Read the following paragraphs for Angie’s realizations as she assumed each of the SLID roles. Maybe you’ll find some useful ideas for the headwinds in your strategic initiatives.
Chief Storyteller Role
“When I placed myself in the role of Chief Storyteller, I realized my initiative was competing for ‘share of mind’ for many important stakeholders (and didn’t have much top-of-mind awareness). One reason was that it didn’t seem connected to the larger/longer narrative for the organization. I needed to get in front of people and have an effective conversation (listen and talk) with them about the strategic initiative. I developed and delivered an elevator speech. The result was that individuals found that the story helped them make sense of the vision and their role in making it happen. Consequently, they individually and collectively showed more interest and enthusiasm for the initiative.”
Chief Learning Officer Role
“When I placed myself in the role of Chief Learning Officer, I realized that team learning was weak. We were struggling with ambiguities due to different perceptions of the nature of the problem, the opportunity, and the possible solution. I encouraged the delivery team to develop curiosity, ask questions, and learn the answers. As we probed into the nature of the unknowns, we found that several assumptions were invalid and that we needed to be more proactive about identifying and evaluating risks.”
Chief Integration Officer Role
“When I placed myself in the role of Chief Integration Officer, I found that my team needed a greater appreciation of the ‘big picture.’ I realized, too, that we needed a more systematic approach for identifying and characterizing the problem and solution elements. We needed a better understanding of the relationship of each element to each other. We came to recognize that we had a number of failure points at system interfaces.
Chief Decision Architect Role
“When I placed myself in the role of Chief Decision Architect, I realized that we were stalled waiting for decisions or providing analysis. I needed to understand and establish the appropriate ‘decision rights’ to determine if I should make the decision (as program manager) or the project manager or an executive. I worked to involve the appropriate people and give them the pertinent information they needed for the decisions.”
Each of these four LIDS roles provides excellent insights and perspectives for the strategic initiative. Actually, the best order is not L -> I -> D -> S, it is rather L-> S-> I -> D (but the acronym is not as memorable) because ambiguity is better resolved with a mindset that values learning and storytelling. The integration role is about partitioning problems and solutions; it becomes more important as the organization starts to develop and evaluate options. The earlier roles tend to provide facts, risk information, and intuition that are helpful for decisions.
What was Angie’s Feedback?
“The hardest thing was to quiet my mind and let my imagination and visualization work. Regardless, it was an invaluable exercise and that helped me prioritize my action plans. I gained a renewed sense of determination to lead this strategic initiative and make it successful.”
Let me know about your experience with this exercise!
- S.L.I.D. – The Four Leadership Roles of the Strategic Program Manager (leadingstrategicinitiatives.wordpress.com)
- Two Tools for Describing Strategic Context (Strategic Thinking Part 3) (leadingstrategicinitiatives.wordpress.com)
- Strategic Thinking (Part 2): Framing Decisions with the Four Types of Ambiguity to (leadingstrategicinitiatives.wordpress.com)
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