Strategic Thinking

Blue Marble Strategic Planning

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We can fly from New York to Boston on the hour via commuter flights that barely reach a low cruise altitude before descending to the airport.  The choice of air travel for this route is usually one of preference and price.  The bus, train, on-demand car service, or personal automobile are all viable.  A journey that connects significant metropolitan areas is not that remarkable but necessary.

Far more ambitious is a journey into space.  We cannot readily hop aboard the next shuttle or rocket and find ourselves unshackled from Earth’s atmosphere.  The opportunity to look back upon our planet from the vantage point of the Moon or orbiting space station allows for different thinking.  We access a perspective only available to our human nature when we stand separated from that which usually conceals us.  This is why mountain peaks, observation decks on skyscrapers, and canyon overlooks continue to fascinate us.  We find ourselves suspended in places where we cannot remain.

The challenge to our enterprise is what journey will transform our way of thinking?  The shuttle approach works.  It is quick, predictable, and alternate forms can be substituted if our preferred method of travel encounters a delay.  The journey to space requires the commitment of a team and numerous resources.  When successful it tends to inform our decision-making for a generation.  The question is, which landscape do you need to see when you are thinking strategically?  Does an elevated view of I-95 suffice or does a little blue marble sitting above the horizon of a lunar landscape reorder our ways of thinking?  Both journeys are viable, the results are poles apart.

 

The Golden Circle of Strategic Thinking

As members of the tribe we are acquainted with Simon Sinek’s Start With Why and Golden Circle.  Simon’s approach represents one of the more transformational processes to uncover and articulate individual and organizational purpose.

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I have been grappling with ways to ensure strategic planning does not morph into operational planning.  Said differently, how do we create clarity for the board and staff such that the action items do not drive the plan and the strategies are abandoned in favor of completing action steps (which feel so good to check-off)?  Employing Simon’s highly complex circles illustrates a different approach to strategic thinking.  The strategic goals are at the center of the plan similar to the Whys in the Golden Circle.  The Objectives serve as the bridge to provide a route for the goals similar to the Hows.  Finally, each action items represents a tangible and concrete step taken to move an initiative forward in alignment with the Whats.

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Conceptually this is a paradigm shift but it leaves the action items vulnerable to a What-centric approach (outside-in thinking).  In reflecting on the roles and responsibilities of the board and staff there is an opportunity to leverage a focal point that resonates.  What if the board’s culture of inquiry originates from the strategic goal and proceeded outwards and the staff drives the plan from the action items inwards towards the goal?  These opposing (but unified) approaches provides for transformational strategic thinking.

GS Borad-Staff

Simons Golden Circle’s simplicity provides a user-friendly approach.  For me, it offers a visible way to support and amplify the power of strategic thinking.  I look forward to your thoughts and refinements.