Over a period of weeks, I’ve been deconstructing and exploring how we meet and make strategic decisions. Given our current pandemic reality, strategic retreats are neither possible nor desirable. My question was how they can be replicated online, and—for extra bonus points—whether it was possible for those meetings to be more effective than what we are more traditionally used to. I was cautiously optimistic at the outset. I’m now quite confident that it is actually possible.
Getting to good decisions is a product of identifying good options. And while groups will tell you that they value good decisions, their behaviour often exhibits a rush towards making fast decisions. There are several cognitive biases that influence this, and these in turn contribute to some significant barriers in generating good options. Doing that requires thinking about accordions and how they work.
In thinking about how to facilitate strategic discussions in a not face-to-face environment, it is easy to treat the exercise as simply translating in-person activities into an online environment. I believe that is a trap. The reality is that even in person we don’t often conduct good meetings, and we rarely leverage the full diversity of the people at the table. For complex and messy we substitute simple and easy. In discussing strategically important questions online, that is a potential recipe for disaster.
Strategic engagement is hard at the best of times. When we have to do it remotely while working through a pandemic, it gets that much more complicated. We often think of online meeting solutions as a poor substitute for communicating in person. Used conventionally, they arguably are. So how can we rethink how we engage in strategic conversations online in a way that makes them work exceptionally well? Some initial thoughts.
It is not entirely clear how long it will be before people are comfortable inhabiting meeting rooms again, even for very short and focussed interactions. Which raises some fundamental questions about how we go about having strategically important conversations. Our current reality changes how we facilitate, how we interact and how groups explore, unpack and resolve complex and messy questions. In trying to figure out alternative strategies, there are some fundamental problems that need to be solved.