Notes from ‘The New How’ — The Chief of Answers model is obsolete

Lately I tend to go back to two books to get myself in the right mindset ahead of an important meeting: ‘The Four Steps to Epiphany’ and ‘The New How’. The first book proposes a methodology to interact with the ecosystem so it informs the organisation’s strategy, and the second one makes a case to involve the whole organisation in the creation and execution of that strategy.

This morning I am on a train from Munich to Paris, getting ready for two days of workshops and activities with Leroy Merlin. The journey takes six hours and there is hardly any internet, and I thought I could share some of my Kindle notes on the New How, in particular the ones that explain why hero culture is no longer a good idea.

Forming strategies

A strategy is a way to win, whatever winning might mean to any organisation, and it’s therefore crucial. How strategies are created is important too, as top to bottom strategies risk lacking organisational engagement. A fully developed strategy creation process would engage the team, identify the key interdependent tasks, find the weak spots and get buy-in an accountability.

Good strategy creation depends on both a good system and good people. If you have a talented team and assemble the right systemic elements — individual behaviours and attitudes, processes, and organisational principles — you have the makings of a powerful organisation for creating strategy.

When you are a command-and-control CEO, individuals impacted by your decision can choose not to buy in, and either slow or even stop the process. It was hard for me at first to be collaborative. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems

The Chief of Answers model is obsolete

Crowning yourself the Chief of Answers puts you in a difficult position, one with very little advantage. It sets your team up to be the Tribe of Doing Things. The Chief of Answers makes himself the person responsible for driving all strategy, consequently becoming a bottleneck and the organisation losing responsiveness.

Cross-silo collaboration

Why does an organisation need to drive collaborative actions? Why do people need to step outside their own domains if the business is to thrive? It comes down to this: speed to market happens through cross-silo collaboration. And the more complex the organisation, the more necessary it is to encourage contribution across disciplines. While people say they value collaboration, their people, processes, and organisational systems are not set to support it, therefore failing to tap the talents, knowledge, and experience of its people.

Organisational elements for collaboration

We can design the organisation so it creates the right environment. The right space supports people working together in the dynamic tension that enables generating excellent ideas, challenging underlying assumptions, vetting those ideas, sharing ownership, gaining a deep understanding, and establishing accountability for success.

The fundamental organisational enablers fall into three categories:

  1. Individual behaviours and attitudes. Align people with the purpose by involving them fully in defining the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, so they understand the ‘why’
  2. Strategic process. Nothing beats practical understanding, which increases diversity of perspectives. The collaborative strategic process needs to go slow to go fast, but with a limited duration and a practical convergence to be practical.
  3. Organisational principles. One thing that helps organisations to collaborate is to view strategy creation less as a rigid turn-the-crank effort and more as a pathway to discovery.

The role of the leader

The short answer is this: you make clear that it matters, invite your people to participate, ask them to help, and provide them guidance. As we lead, we have countless opportunities to speed up strategy creation and execution by facilitating conversations across organisational silos, divisions, functions, and departments. So, your job as a leader now includes being a catalyst to connect people and help them combine forces, develop their ideas, and tap their collective knowledge, experience, and strengths.

Links of Interest

The New How — Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy

Rethink & Remix — The portal for business transformation, empowered by OuiShare