Without a strategy articulated, perhaps it’s time to start crowdsourcing one

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In my previous article, I discuss how a necessary component of leadership is setting and articulating a strategy. If this is not done, then leaders become managers executing a strategy that has not been articulated, and, in essence, multiplying the number of managers executing a non-existent or randomly generated or constantly changing strategy.  In other words, chaos.

In an earlier article, I discuss how one way to assure managers actually know the strategy is to ask them what they think the strategy and ask those reporting to the managers what they think the strategy is.

Now lets combine the two.  Let’s go ahead and ask people in the organization what they think strategy is.  Whether there is an articulated strategy or not, this process will, in essence, reveal what people in the organization think the strategy is.

Setting and articulating a strategy is not necessarily an easy thing to do, and even those in leadership positions seem to struggle with this.  So “crowdsourcing” is at least a way to generate ideas and kick start the process of identifying and articulating a strategy. 

This does not have to be a difficult process.  Using whatever survey method you have at your organization or using focus groups, you can ask the following of all or a randomly selected group of people:

  1. What is your department’s strategy?
  2. What is the company’s strategy?
  3. How do you contribute to the department’s strategy?
  4. How does the work you do reflect the company’s strategy?

I would also recommend tracking the job title/role of the people in the organization (line employee, manager, leadership) in gathering these responses.

This survey/focus group effort would aid in the following:

  1. If your leadership team feels like it has a good strategy in place, this is a good measure to see how well those in the organization understand it and are working in alignment to the strategy.  If not, it can identify how better to have the workforce align to the strategy, or surface refinements to the strategy.  If nothing else, it provides a discussion point between strategy setting and strategy execution – the inflection point between management and leadership.
  2. If the leadership team has yet to “set the strategy”, this is a great way to learn what the de-facto strategy or strategies are.  This gives a starting point for the leadership team to start being leaders.  By having real content with which to work, actual decisions can be made based on real information.  Better yet, where people are doing work in alignment to the eventually-agreed-upon strategy, there is, by definition, alignment with at least part of your organization.  Where there are pockets that the work is not in accordance to the eventually-agreed-upon strategy, that is where the management can perform better as managers and start executing on an actually agreed-upon-strategy.

In any case, the collective intelligence of your organization is likely going to surface more and better strategy ideas than a leadership team on its own and from up on high, and this should be taken advantage of.  It also affords the leadership team to be more thoughtful and inclusive in the strategy setting process.

Finally, in the situation where the leadership team doesn’t even have a strategy, and thus needs one, this is a relatively rapid-fire way to get the basic fodder that answers the question, “What is our strategy” and turn it around from “there is no strategy”.  It uses real ideas and concepts from real people doing real work in the organization, and surfaces the basic tools that management needs to do the job of managing.

Now the leadership team just has to stick with it and not go down some other path.

 Related articles:

Do your managers know the strategy of your organization?

Tips for how your managers can better execute strategy

Tips for how your managers can better understand your strategy

How do managers learn strategy?

Do your leaders know and articulate the organization’s strategy?  Read on for a deconstruction of leadership.

Management Design: The designs we have now – Manager knows and supports only one possible strategy

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .

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