by David Grau
The leadership needs to resist the temptation to do everything that everyone can think of to achieve the desired future state of the organization. If there are too many priorities they will compete with each other and little will get done. Here is an approach for keeping the number of strategies to those necessary to successfully implement the change:
- Relative to the goal, where is your organization today? Establish the gap. If the change is to resolve a problem, discover the root causes. Taiichi Ohno, Former Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation saw problems as opportunities. “’Having no problems is the biggest problem of all.’ Ohno saw a problem not as a negative, but, in fact, as ‘a kaizen (continuous improvement) opportunity in disguise.’ Whenever one cropped up, he encouraged his staff to explore problems first-hand until the root causes were found. ‘Ask why five times about every matter.’” The Toyota-Global website (http://www.toyota-global.com/company/toyota_traditions/quality/mar_apr_2006.html) has an excellent example of Ohno’s methodology for uncovering root causes.
- Generating ideas (strategies) for how to make the change happen, i.e., how to get from where the organization is today to where it needs to be, as already alluded to, will not be difficult. Generating high quality ideas involves a concept known as “rich idea spinning,” developed by Jerry McNellis, former CEO of McNellis, Inc. As with brainstorming, rich idea spinning accepts all ideas but is different in that the other participants in the group ask clarifying questions of the person proposing the idea. They “spin” the idea up into an even better idea and make sure it is so clear that if someone walked in the room and read the idea they could picture exactly what would result if that particular strategy was pursued by the organization.
- Another approach is to do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). MBA-Lectures has an excellent description of the SWOT analysis– http://mba-lectures.com/management/strategic-management/1248/tows-or-swot-matrix-of-toyota.html
- When idea spinning or SWOT analysis is completed, narrow the suggested strategies to the critical few that will lead to the achievement of the goal. Establish criteria with the group so that everyone involved in the decision making process will be using the same lens through which they will be selecting the top strategies. Criteria could include how much time it will take to implement a strategy, available resources, i.e., people, dollars, and materiel, likelihood of a strategy being successfully implemented, whether or not the strategy is absolutely necessary to help the organization to be successful in its change effort, etc. In government, a common criterion is whether or not a particular strategy is mandated. If it’s mandated, unless pushback is successful, it gets done.
Now that the organization has answered the question “What are we going to do to achieve our goal?” the next questions is “How are we going to get each strategy implemented so that it contributes to the realization of the envisioned change?” Part III of this article explores this next step.