No, dialogue and strategizing can’t be removed from strategy-work. But we could ‘talk’ much faster.2016-12-10
This post is about ‘engagement fatigue’. By this, I refer to the frustration a number of experienced managers express when faced with the need to start a strategy-process.
By now, concepts of co-creation, interaction and engagement are not new to any manager. But temptation is growing to reduce the programmed and planned dialogue and storytelling that today make up much of what is considered strategy-work. To many, the age of lean start-up and agile leadership seems to suggest we could perhaps cut down on ‘talking’ done to help people make sense and engage. This way we would surely get the ‘strategy’ nailed faster get on with the implementation?
Now, based on leadership research, it is very likely that a successful company has managed to stay in business and reinvent itself not despite but rather because it has developed – learned- a good capacity for engagement and sense-making ‘talk’. Invariably, this capacity implies that both managers and employees to some extent have learned to relate both to strategizing and the notion of ‘strategy’ in a pragmatic way as part of work. In the words of Karl Weick, they know how to ‘talk the walk’.
Unfortunately it appears that, in the classical role of a ‘manager’, a common approach is to treat every strategy-round as a routine and one identical to the previous one. We tend to forget that we ourselves and our colleagues have learned things since the last time and could start from where we are and not from scratch. Above all, we forget that we have ‘learned to learn’ and learned to ‘talk’ and communicate much faster.
Indeed, in the minds of many directors and executive boards the notion of strategy-work still seems to include time-consuming flip-chart- and powerpoint-driven workshops, kick-offs, off-sites and roll-outs. Ironically, in every old-school workshop or off-site, all participants can be seen actively doing real-life ‘talk’ (chats and emails) using their mobile phones and Ipads. Effective and real strategy, it seems, gets co-created in chats and fast communication. What’s more, in any company today, there is more ‘strategizing’, involving more colleagues than ever, not less.
Perhaps it is time to replace any outdated corporate blueprints for interactive strategy-processes with contemporary ones. The new approach needs to build on mobile, collaborative, creative and much faster ‘talk’.