The three cardinal sins of strategy – part 4

Behavioural strategy enters the story

Jack breathed out slowly. Julie had reluctantly agreed to adjust the strategy process, although she was clearly not happy about it – or him for that matter at that moment. But she had enough management and board experience to have been around the block a few times, and he had never had a better collaboration with a chairman. Still, he could tell that it was not advisable to do this again in the near future. And after all this, he would make damn sure it did not happen again. He called up John to pass on the decision. There was now less than three hours left before what might become a fatal board meeting.

John and Jane had been working non stop with the strategy team since their first meeting around the strategy article that set everything in motion. They had even managed to get ahold of a partner from the consultancy that had pioneered the new approach. They had feared disdain for the short timeline, but he had surprised them. Apparently it was not the first time, the consultancy had been asked to help out in the 11th hour. Together they quickly managed to create the skeleton of a solution and the team was filling it out, when the decision came down from the CEO to indeed pursue the strategy process change. They had of course been working on exactly that, but now it suddenly became very, very real.

They had three problems to fix. They would not be able to undo the mistakes completely, but they could make improvements. The first was the whole process. They had done their usual seven steps and started by identifying the problem to solve. What they were now realizing was that the seven steps were only the right parts for the analytical side. Important but research showed that process was 6 times more critical to final results. 6 times! And the first thing to ensure was that participants had the broadest possible view of the world to avoid the human tunnel vision bias. By identifying the problem as the first step, they had kept the participants within their tunnels – they would now bust them wide open with a megatrend analysis to really show where the industry was heading and what the potential positions were. Exciting – but also more than a little bit scary as their prior decisions may seem antiquated after this, John thought.

Secondly, they would have to move todays closing workshop and extend it a bit. They needed the megatrend analysis first, but they had also in previous sessions managed to unwittingly invite in confirmation bias by making clear recommendations and often letting the powerful chairman speak first. They had practically asked everyone to look for reasons they agreed rather than invite different ideas and let the best ones win. Not only that – with 8 months passing, the participants had been jumping in and out of the strategy process so many times, that they would not be able to identify the inevitable incoherence that was paramount to a powerful strategy. It could not be undone, but they decided as part of the workshop to decide on the full strategy all the way from lofty aspirations to management systems – and as part of the preparation deck to include a summary of the decisions and their interlinks. It was not perfect, but it would have to make do, John said to himself, as his mind was starting to blur from the many long nights of work recently.

Finally, they had prepared a high level implementation deck. Some of the changes seemed deceptively simple, so John expected this part to get accepted easily. The key points that they were radically changing was the idea of starting implementation communication today to prime the organisation. They would also ask key personnel in the organisation to participate in selected parts of the process from here on to have role models supporting the strategy – the idea was that when people are in doubt about a decision – and they always are – they would look to the role models, who were already onboarded. They would need to help the organisation preplan for the changes, so when they met the different obstacles, they were prepared. Lastly, they would spend significant time on making sure the strategy was attractive to the organisation – whatever that meant. It had seemed some logical when the partner explained it, but he would have to look into that more. All small steps – but big impact. He could only hope the board would embrace the last minute changes. He entered the board meeting and looked at the powerful people, he was about to piss off. He was going to need something stronger than coffee after this.

If you cannot wait for… well, by now you probably know the drill – contact or +45-23103206.

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