An Integral Frame for Strategy Development
Derived from Integral Theory, applying an integral frame to strategy development allows organisations to integrate process and people to create futures ready strategy.
The most familiar way organisations face the future is to do strategic planning. But these processes keep us trapped in the right hand quadrants, focused on process and measurement. We need that to define action today, but there is something missing. This is strategy in a box, the doing of strategy. We don't venture into the left hand quadrants very often and as a result, expect people to accept strategy developed in the right hand quadrants without question. We then wonder why this strategy presented to us in a glossy document fails in the execution stage, is resisted or ignored.
It's because the doing of strategy is disconnected from the left hand quadrants where people think about the future that is described in the strategy. Our ideas and beliefs about the future are located in the Upper Left Quadrant. We all have some image of the future or our organisations stored in our minds that shapes how we respond to change as individuals. When we are not treated as individuals in strategy and change processes, those beliefs push back.
When leaders and managers use words about the future and change in our plans and presentations in the Upper Right Quadrant that don't match their behaviour, the power of organisational culture in the Lower Left Quadrant means nothing much changes.
There's an industry about the doing of strategy that we call strategic planning. It's tangible, creates data and can be measured. We write about strategic intent, mission, goals, actions and KPIs. We feel comfortable in the right hand quadrants. There is certainty. We know what we know. We do things. We know strategy cognitively here.
The left hand quadrants are people based, what happens there is not tangible or easily measured. It's messy and complex and few organisations collect information routinely about what people think about the future of their organisation. To access these quadrants requires us to create space for people to come together to collaboratively think strategically, to allow people to imagine and create a shared future, to create stories about the future where they can work together. It's a space that invites uncertainty and complexity - what we know we don't know - into the conversation to build collective understanding and solutions, to experience strategy emotionally, as felt.
If we are seeking to be futures ready today, we need people and processes in our thinking about the future. An integral frame for strategy closes the doing-thinking gap.
Connecting People and Process
The thinking of strategy: people orientation
Creating strategy in a box ignores the human factor essential if a new strategy is to have a positive impact. It ignores the reality that unless each person understands both the rationale for change from their perspective and is involved in the thinking around how to respond to that change, it matters very little how perfect your change management process is or how good your strategy looks on paper.
Human focused strategy is strategy that has escaped the box, that has people and collaborative processes at its core. This is about strategy as experienced. It is this way of thinking about strategy that creates a framework for decision making and problem solving that remains relevant over time.
The doing of strategy: process orientation
Conventional strategic planning is more about producing the plan, ticking a box, following a process, getting an outcome that can be measured, moving on to dealing with the next problem, living in the short term than thinking strategically. Planning becomes a project focused on tangible outcomes rather than the thinking that creates the preferred future that's documented in the plan.
This is what I increasingly call strategy in a box, contained, seemingly controlled, with measurable outcomes that are supposed to inform everyone’s work. This is about doing strategy. It’s about doing something, rather than having a framework for decision making and problem solving.