We have a tendency to be in love with our models, frameworks and methodologies. As I’ve written about before, obsessing about our processes and structures too much—or reinforcing them too formally—is never a good strategy. Nonetheless, we need some structure to work with and guide us in making sense of the world. A realization came to me while thinking about one particular model this week, that highlighted a particular tension. The more we know and apply our models, the less likely they are to bring about new ways of thinking. That creates a bit of a problem to solve.
If best practices aren’t actually best, then why do they exist? What is the point of process, of practices, of standards even, if they don’t reliably produce good results? While some standards have value, and there are simple situations where there might be a best way of doing things, when it comes to the strategic work that we take on, we are far removed from those statements being true. Even when we want there to be a way of working, one that is consistent and repeatable, the reality we find ourselves in is usually very different. It helps to know what to draw on instead if we are going to be successful.
Rules define how we approach virtually all aspects of life, not least of which is how we function in our organizations. There are the written rules, and the unwritten ones. Both shape our behaviour, and they interact with one another in fascinating and sometimes unpredictable ways. The larger question is how we interact with the rules around us—and whether or not it is safe, appropriate or advisable to do so. That depends a lot on the organization around us, how it functions and how we perceive our role within it.
We often think we know what we mean when we use the term “strategic.” It’s self evident, right? Except, in my experience, it is very often not. Strategic is often viewed as a vague concept outlining general ideas that don’t really provide much guidance, direction or usefulness. Which is exactly what we don’t need more of. My take on what strategic looks like, and the meaning that you should be seeking.
I more often share how I think, rather than how I work. This week, I shift that around a bit. I’ve been facilitating for decades, and learning and adjusting what that looks like constantly. What I’m finally (mostly) comfortable with is what’s in my kit. These are the essentials that I won’t go into a meeting room without. To some, it may be overkill, but it’s how I go in prepared.
Planning is supposed to be virtuous. Good for us. And yet, plans usually change. To-dos don’t get done. Life gets in the way. And our planning systems don’t keep up. So just what’s the point?