The easiest way to create organizational change is to change the agenda. If getting your strategy to permeate your organization’s culture seems like a Herculean task, then this article might be for you. Although the end goal is to transform your organization into a strategic thinking entity that embodies your strategy, there are some simple steps you can initiate to get you headed down the right path.
Staff Meeting Agenda
Although I would be the first to agree that strategy and tactics shouldn’t be discussed in the same meeting, as strategic thinking and tactical thinking require different mindsets, your weekly staff meeting agenda can be organized around strategic themes or initiatives. If you want to keep you team focused on strategy, rather than organize your regular staff meeting agenda by departments or projects, organize it by your strategic initiatives.
If your strategic initiatives are, strengthen brand identity, engage younger professionals, advance education and knowledge management, and strengthen your government affairs program, agenda item one becomes brand identity, agenda item two becomes engaging young professionals, etc. Then each staff member can speak about their projects, efforts and challenges in terms of or under the umbrella of the strategic initiative.
You might find this approach also becomes a deterrent to silo thinking and engages your staff in more dialogue. I’ve been in too many unproductive staff meetings where it becomes an exercise of simply reporting with no back and forth dialogue.
I am also an advocate for holding regular strategy meetings with staff on a quarterly basis. Depending on the size of your organization, your industry sector or your strategy, you may want to hold these more often (monthly) or less frequently (semiannually). During these meetings, collectively, the staff should challenge the strategic initiatives and talk about what has changed in the environment by testing some of the original assumptions about the future and exploring new assumptions. The time can also be used to confirm whether or not the metrics are actually measuring what they are intended to measure, which is advancement toward the strategic goal.
Board Meeting Agenda
I haven’t met a not-for-profit leader yet that doesn’t have the goal of transforming their Board into a strategic thinking body. Although transforming the culture of a Board requires great leadership and a comprehensive board development program, it all begins with changing the agenda. Again, the Board meeting agenda should be designed around the actual strategic initiatives as provided above in the staff meeting agenda example. The agenda items that the various Board Committees have selected for dialogue and action would fall under the headers of the different strategic initiatives.
In addition, one might create a separate environmental scan item on the agenda for each Board meeting. This would give the Board the opportunity to discuss changes in the external environment, focusing on threats and opportunities that might be important to inform the strategic initiatives. Although once a year a more analytical approach to environmental scanning is in order, during interim meetings a social intuitive approach is fine. However, when using a social intuitive approach, it is important to validate the discussion outcomes with analytics should dialogue result in an apparent need or recommendation to make an adjustment to strategy.
Make Critical Thinking the Norm
Although critical thinking begins with challenging your current beliefs and mindsets, it doesn’t end there. You must also motivate your team members to challenge their own beliefs. When team members make a proposal you could require them to, along with selling their proposal, answer some simple questions: Why won’t this proposal work? Why doesn’t this proposal align with our overall strategy? What faulty assumptions is the proposal based on? What is the real problem I’m trying to solve and is this proposal the best way to contribute to the resolution of the problem?
What has your experience been?
Let me know why you think these three simple steps might work or might not work. What practices do you use to keep your strategy off the bookshelf?