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Greg Githens is the author of How to Think Strategically (2019). He is a recognized thought leader in designing and delivering strategic initiatives.
Read these recent articles
- Five tips for speaking truth to power
- Better Conversations Generate Better Strategy
- Insights Are the Secret Sauce of Strategy
- How a Strategic Decision Differs From a Tactical Decision
- Unlearning, learning, and a culture of strategic thinking
- How Mapping Can Improve Your Strategic Thinking
- How to Measure Business Acumen
- Strategy Execution as a Learning Process
- Why I favor a mental stance of disorder
- Critical Asking
- Transcending the Status Quo
- Connecting Strategy to Execution
- Complexity: Four Principles for Program Managers
- Use the PAVER Framework to Assure Strategic Commitments
- Strategic Experiments & Agile Responses
- Avoiding Four Pitfalls of Rapid Growth
- Operational Excellence or Strategic Excellence?
- Design Thinking: Five Landmarks for Strategic Initiatives
- Seven Must-Do’s for Better Strategy Execution
- Strategy as Problem Solving: An Example from a Large Technology Organization.
- Five Mental Anchors that Impede Your Strategic Initiative
- Five Must-Know Patterns of Disruption
- Beginners Guide: Competent Strategic Initiatives
- Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, & Ambiguity (VUCA)
- Four Recommendations for Effective Program Governance
- Six Strategic Thinking Skills: Developing the Proactiveness Habit
- What’s the #Strategy? Let Me Tell You a #Story
- Benefits of Being a Visible Expert
- Strategy is Not Long-Range Planning, Vision, Mission, or Values
- Five Ways to Involve Smart New Voices in the Strategy & Agile Innovation Conversation
- Is it Possible to Have a Perfect Strategy?
- Facilitating the Business Model Canvas: A Few Lessons Learned (Part 1)
- Designing Strategic Initiatives for Results: The Two Kinds of Coherence
- Perspective is More Powerful than Vision
- The Real Reason Strategy Implementation is Difficult (and the Solution to It)
- Grasping Essentials When You’re NOT the Expert
- Agile Thinking, Habits, and Strategic Initiative Leadership: Transcending the Buzz for Useful Insights
Talk to the ExpertNeed a strategic planning facilitator, implementation coach, neutral mediator, workshop, seminar, or hands-on program manager? Greg Githens provides coaching, workshops, hands-on, and more. Contact him at GregoryDGithens@cs.com or 419.424.1164
- Ambiguity and Strong-Minded Thinking
- Competencies of Strategic Initiative Leaders
- Examples of Strategic Initiatives
- How to Improve Your Story Telling Chops
- Incremental Benefits Delivery
- Interpreting Strategy Documents
- Program & Portfolio Management
- Strategic Planning Issues for Strategic Initiatives
- Strategy Coaching and Facilitation
- Strategy, Ambiguity, and Strong-Minded Thinking
- Success Principles for Strategic Initiatives
- Transforming the Organization
- Useful Practices & Management Tools
Category Archives: Useful Practices & Management Tools
A leader of a strategic initiative should be asking this question, How can I recognize and increase the coherence and integrity of my strategic initiative? The article describes the concept of coherence and explains that there is narrative coherence and design coherence. The author advises starting with narrative coherence and look at the elements of storytelling to find a tension between two forces and then articulating possible futures, as the strategic initiative is an attempt to navigate the organization towards that new future. Look to identify, historically, how constraints were addressed. Finally, a function of leadership is to impose design onto an organization by persuasion or by more formal authority mechanisms.
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Having a perspective means that the ideas and direction are open to discussion, inviting more people into the discussion to contribute their perspectives. Importantly, it avoids the elitist nature of many vision statements.
There are two people-related problems that cause poor strategy execution: stakeholders lack a mutual understanding of the nature of the situation & the organization’s social and emotional environment is not supportive for individuals to step outside of their comfort zone. To overcome, use the concepts of dialogue and deliberation, following the analogy of jury duty. An effective jury reaches consensus. Similarly, and effective strategy is one that reaches consensus; that is, people agree to support the implementation. Continue reading
What can a person do when he needs to quickly grasp essential knowledge and there is little opportunity to delegate the decision to an expert? This article provides you learn a technique for improving the effectiveness of your learning of specialist knowledge. I discovered a solution that finds a middle ground between formalized textbook-style learning and muddling through. This approach, works by asking focus questions and constructing propositions. The result is a hierarchical concept maps that renders a scaffold of relevant knowledge.I heartily endorse concept maps as a useful tool and hope you will practice and build skill. They are deceptively simple when you see a good one that has been developed by someone else. I encourage you to persist.
Coherence means that things make sense. In the context of strategy, it means that the committed resources, policies, and actions are consistent and coordinated. A plan is only a good plan if it makes good sense. Unfortunately, most organizations pursue multiple objectives that are unconnected with one another (and sometimes even conflict).They are anything but coherent! Insert the concept of coherence into your discussions. How? One way is to ask simple questions, “Does this make sense? Where are the gaps? Are there conflicting objectives?” Another way to encourage coherence is to activate the Chief Story Teller role. Imposing coherence and discipline on an organization is difficult and takes hard work by the strategic initiative leader.
Strategic initiatives often depend on incremental progress, realized through small wins. Four ideas for small wins: 1) Don’t let methodology get in the way, 2) Recruit allies, 3) Break things down, 4) Be generous with small rewards.
Scope creep is a frequently-heard complaint. The word scope is ambiguous; experience shows that even highly experienced and trained professionals cannot agree on its meaning. The Includes-Excludes Table is a simple two-column table with the word “in” placed at the top of the left column and “out” at the top of the right column. It helps us to visualize scope creep as something that was determined to be “out” now has crept over the line to become “in.” The advice for the strategic initiative leader is straightforward: pay attention to the partitioning of in and out. Don’t let something that is out cross the line unless you understand the impacts on the governance of the program. Also, use preferred modifiers: Problem Scope, Product Scope, and Work Scope.
This process of describing the in and out, and making choices, encourages the strategist to think about their business model in a more complete and logical way. The Includes-Excludes Table can help you stay focused on root causes and core strategic problems. They key is to maintain a focus on the problem scope, and avoid the tendency to start designing solutions and implementing them.
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Strategy is inherently ambiguous, with goals and expectations differing depending upon the stakeholder. Because people tend to feel uncomfortable with ambiguity, a leader needs to clear the fog; a process that is best called gaining perspective. Before the leader can help others, s/he needs to clarify their her/his own view of the rewards and the risks. This article identifies three useful questions for gaining perspective: What do I want to achieve? What do I want to preserve? What do I want to avoid? First answer this for the individual, then for the group. The article provides an example of its application by a newly promoted vice president sponsoring improvements to new product development productivity.
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1. People Desire to Part of Something Bigger, 2. People Desire to be of Service to Others 3. People Desire Status and Appreciate Recognition Continue reading
Leaders should see strategy as a narrative arc from the founding to the present launch of a strategic initiative. The techniques of corporate time lines and identifying turning points help with the analysis. Then, future cast for a new vision with these questions:What present problems and opportunities are relevant to our future? What are the scenarios of the future? Where (and over whom) will we find advantage? What are the insights? A current strategic initiative could be seen as an episode of an organization’s history, with a turning point. Continue reading