Strategy – Random Thoughts to Wrap Up

20151104_145813This is the last post in the series on strategy and over the course of writing the last 10 posts it seems / feels like some things are left unsaid (but aren’t they always)! Additionally, over the time it has taken to write these posts I have had the chance to interact with quite a lot of people on the entire topic of OUCH! and strategy specifically. This has been really good and has informed not only the writing but added to the experience of writing these posts as well.

It has also been a challenge writing these posts. I knew that my perspective / ideology on organizations was not typical yet it matched and made sense of my experiences of being in and working with people in organizations. Taking this personal understanding and trying to put it down in a coherent fashion was challenging. More challenging than I expected actually! Especially since strategy is so complex, so laden with power and so entrenched in typical theory and understanding of how strategy is supposed to work. I imagine some of the challenge also comes from my own desire or hope for certainty, even though this is one of the primary things I don’t believe in or think is possible in organizations!

One of the things that tends to happen when I interact with people about OUCH! or what it is challenging and questioning is that people tend to respond in what I would call an algorithmic or if/then kind of way.  As an example people will respond, or seem to conclude ‘Well if he’s challenging strategy then he must think it’s no good / not necessary’. Or ‘If he’s challenging performance management then he must think we might as well not try and manage performance’.

I actually rarely get asked if I think strategy or performance management is necessary or needed however!

That I think these things are not necessary or needed seems to be a conclusion that people quite often come to. Why this might be the case I’m not sure but my sense is that this is representative of the typical way we understand organizations. That being if you think the current ‘answer’ or ‘solution’ is a problem, then you must have a different answer or solution.

If I was asked this question though my response would be ‘I do think these things are necessary and needed, that they are happening all the time in our day to day interactions and it is these interactions that are most important!’

So the rest of this post will focus on a few ‘things’ that often get caught up in that if/then response.

Vision. I have no problem with the concept of vision. I think it can be a powerful and motivating energy. I simply don’t think you need vision to do good strategy work. In fact I think it gets in the way of recognizing emerging opportunities. Vision, that idealized view of the future is a hope, not a certainty and when freed from the burden of certainty helps hope to stay present, for all of us.

Creative tension. Fritz and Senge described creative tension as an energy that would draw you toward your vision. If your vision was clear enough this energy would put things in front of you that would help you get there. I really think this energy is more in line with the concept of synchronicity as originally described by Carl Jung. Jung defined synchronicity as an ‘acausal connecting principle’ or ‘temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.’ We’ve all experienced synchronicity when something happens that we didn’t expect but is related in some way to other things that are happening to us at the time.

The important thing with synchronicity is that these occurrences are not planned and are connected by personal meaning. With the idea of creative tension these ‘occurrences’ which were supposed to occur to help us reach our vision were treated as being planned for by a clear enough vision and connected to that vision, not by meaning but by result. Creative tension is treated as a tool for strategy and simply cannot live up to the expectations of what that tool was supposed to do. If creative tension does exist and I believe it does as synchronicity, it fits best as helping us recognize emergent opportunities and is more connected to day to day intentions than vision.

Causality. In the past posts I distinguish between cause and influence as it relates to human behavior. For me there is one cause and multiple influences of human behavior. I land on transformative causality; our interactions cause our behavior. This cause is founded on the theories of social construction and as such my perspective on the cause of human behavior is an ideology, not a fact. Your thinking may be founded on a different ideology.

Nevertheless, while I land on transformative as the cause of human behavior I do not discount the significance of the INFLUENCE other types of causality have on human behavior. Systems and structures (formative causality) and choice (rational causality) have dramatic influence on our behavior and it is important to pay attention to these influences.

What is important to me in this area is how you think human behavior is caused will be a major contributor to what you do with the power you have to affect behavior. Since the typical way of understanding strategy is based on formative causality, leaders use their power primarily to design systems and structures that are supposed to cause behavior for the rest of the organization.

If individual choice (rational causality) is the cause of behavior then leaders will primarily use their power to communicate the logic and rational reasons for their decisions regarding strategy. It would be assumed these reasons will be effective enough so others get on board and choose to act to support that strategy.

If interaction (transformational causality) is the cause of behavior then leaders use their power to initiate as many interactions as possible with people to discuss strategy and stay open to the responses they get which may produce adaptations to that strategy.

Certainly all of the above need to be done. The question is where do you want your primary focus to be and why? Currenly there is very little thought or interaction about this. We default to formative causality since that is how we typically understand organizations. OUCH!

Comment and discussion points for this post:

  1. Are there other concepts, words, perspectives that have been in the previous posts on strategy you would like to question, disagree with, ask for further explanation?
  2. Do these posts on strategy resonate with your actual experience of strategy in your organization?





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