Being Strategic

being-strategic-bookBeing Strategic   is a very practical and wonderfully organized book. I followed Chris Brogan’s recommendation   and read it. He noted that the book was “like going through a lesson plan instead of an enjoyable read.”  “Perfect!” I thought, and I was not disappointed 🙂  

The author, Erika Andersen,  noted that understanding of the word “strategy” is not always correct and hardly consistent. I could not agree more – on two different jobs I was considered “too strategic” and “not strategic” for asking exactly the same question “what are we trying to achieve?” I still love strategy books 😉  

Being Strategic  – interesting points:

Being strategic means consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future. 

Strategy: core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.

Tactics: specific actions that will best implement your strategies.

          Being Strategic
Define the Challenge, then
          Clarify What Is
(An exploration of the current situation and how it came to be.)
          Envision What’s the Hope (How can we…?)
(The hoped-for future: clearly defined, realistic, inspirational.)
          Face What’s in the Way
(An objective understanding of what’s blocking movement from “what is” to the hoped-for future.)
          Determine What’s the Path
(The Plan to overcome obstacles and achieve the hoped-for future.)

          Excellent Tactics
          Arise from strategy

          Are FIT (feasibility, impact, timeliness)
          Define what, who, and when

The book pays specific attention to “being strategic” in a group and facilitation. An absolutely remarkable recommendation on what to do when everybody is arguing solutions without understanding what is the goal:

being-strategic-authorAs soon as I realize that we’re arguing solutions without having defined the challenge, I ask the group’s permission to share an idea. Then, when they say yes (they are generally so surprised that I did not just start lobbying for my own solution that they almost always say yes), I say something like, “I’m not sure we are all trying to solve the same problem. What do we think the problem is?”

Most often, somebody will state his or her version of what the problem is in a kind of isn’t-this-obvious tone of voice and at least a couple of other people in the room will look surprised and disagree. Before they can start a new argument – about what the problem is – I break in and say, “How about if we all just say what we think is the problem and look for overlaps?” … if you can get the group focused on the task of creating a shared picture of what is not working or what needs to be addressed or accomplished (the challenge), you will have gone most of the way toward shifting their attention.

The best explanation of SWOT I ever found (as part of “clarifying of What Is”):

Example for “How can we ensure our after-school program stays fun, safe, and cost-effective?”

Strengths: Strengths of the group relative to the challenge.
Example: Kids like the program, the person in charge has great financial skills, etc.

Weaknesses: Weaknesses or deficits of the group relative to the challenge
Example: we are not clear about what we want to program to provide, we are lax about emergency procedures, etc.

Opportunities: Traditional SWOT can focus on “possible things we could do going forward.” Could be better define as “circumstances around us that support our success.”  Opportunities are considered as strengths – external to the group that are relevant to the challenge.
Example: other schools have figured out how to do this well and their learning is available to us, community is supportive of our success.

Threats: Weaknesses external to the group.
Example: School is not in a very safe neighborhood, expected budget cuts, etc.

being-strategic-castleSWOT is similar to helpful and unhelpful staff within the group and helpful and unhelpful staff outside the group, relative to the challenge.

Particularly interesting section on facilitation – one person can be a facilitator and if needed offer an opinion.

          Facilitator Skills
          Keep on Track

being-strategic-proteusExcellent book!  The book includes a few real examples of clients of Proteus International, Inc. and detailed descriptions of hypothetical examples to clarify the ideas.