Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Inquiry as a Way of Thinking and the Strategy Process

In Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy, the authors state that many managers dread the annual strategic planning ritual because it doesn’t produce any real change or can even perpetuates the status quo. While that may be true, I believe that a part of why this happens is because most people coming out of a traditional educational program (i.e. nearly everyone in a position to be working on strategy within an organization) are encouraged/forced to be results oriented rather than process oriented.

The method outlined by the authors takes strategy participants along a process that helps individuals to ask the right questions at the right time so that human and financial resources are efficiently deployed. This method requires that people trust not only the process but also the other people in the group. Because this type of process is new to virtually everyone, there is bound to be some resistance at least initially because it is a lot of talk and not much action and openly sharing new ideas and concerns means taking a risk. Teachers know that to build a class up to engage in meaningful inquiry requires scaffolding, time and patience. If an organization were to choose to use this method of strategizing, it would be useful for them to start as early as possible and build in bite-sized pieces of inquiry along the way in staff meetings, workshops, professional development opportunities and so forth to assist individuals with becoming more familiar with the process. It may also be useful to hire a consultant or a skilled facilitator until there are people in-house who can take charge.

Lest it give the wrong impression, I think this method is brilliant because it allows time and space for individuals to try on new ideas and to see how they “fit”. There are even methods to help people overcome their reservations about an idea or to make sure that the tests are comprehensive enough that they can buy into an idea even if they were initially skeptical. The method would be even stronger if there was a discussion of how to create a cohesive culture leading up to using this more formal process. Inquiry requires immersion and it is a way of thinking and analyzing; it is not a series of boxes to be checked off.

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