The Strategy is Value Creation — Part 1: Integrating Efforts Around Purpose
First a recap on the general frame. Industrial Era organizations operated in stable environments in which planning ahead (sense-analyse-respond) was possible and the best perceived way of reducing risk. However today’s Connected Era faces such #complexity that the practices that we’re used to are simply not the best ones available when facing missions and tasks that are based in uncertainty.
Dave Snowden’s Cynefin-model states that given uncertainty or complexity, an action-oriented approach geared towards learning (probe-sense-respond) is the way to go. According to Snowden, the important thing about the Cynefin model is not the domains but the dynamics and cadence (cycles) that allow us to make sense of the world.
What I’m describing in this post are how to implement the (blue) cadence between exploration and exploitation and (violet) cadence of continuous learning by doing.
Coming from the Complicated, “well planned is half done” mindset (sense-analyse-respond) we interpret direct action as hassle that is random and not useful. This is how it is in many of today’s silo’d organizations: they consist of bright, active and enthusiastic people but with little integration between their efforts that leads to misalignment. This lack of integration is a not a personal trait of these people but rather a symptom of a hierarchical organizational system which based on a machine metaphor in which specialized cogs are put in place to perform functions that deliver on a global purpose such as strategy or whatever is on the agenda of top management. This type of thinking is to thank for most of our technological advancement and the well-being in our (western) world so it is a proven way.
The concept pace layering refers to the fact that things (can) change at different paces. According to Stewart Brand, feelings and fashion can shift very quickly whereas infrastructures, mindsets, behaviors and cultures are considerably slower.
However, given the exponential change of today’s world, organizations should be more effective at changing or adapting to support the success of any given purposeful mission or task. Responsive Organizations are able to do just that. Instead of being based on the tightly coupled cogs that make up a static yet efficient machine, responsiveness is enabled by organizing around loosely coupled capabilities (people, processes, information and tools) and capacities (knowhow and time) that can be assembled as needed.
Instead of having separate pace layers in organizations, organizations should be able to operate at as fast a pace that is possible regardless of what layer is in question. Former Head of the UK Government Digital Service Mike Bracken championed the idea of “The Strategy is Delivery”, meaning, rather than focusing on unending, closed-loop discussions within government on what course to take with policy, instead focus on fulfilling user needs based on fast feedback loops within the constraints or boundaries set by policies and laws. These constraints are definitely needed but they work better when they are integrated to use cases rather than set separately from them.
Instead on focusing only delivery, the strategy should be Value Creation in which different types of parameters are fulfilled to create win-win-win-situations for the relevant stakeholders focusing mostly on what is the external-facing purpose of an organization.
British Lean Systems Thinking consultant John Seddon has done multiple projects in the public sector that have been able to both enable higher customer satisfaction and have impact on the efficiency of the organization. His Vanguard Method is based on understanding purpose from customer needs and deriving the efforts that add value to this purpose.
This is how bootstrapped startups work but I contend that in established organizations we often focus on how the organization-as-a-machine operates rather than relentless value creation and delivery. Large organizations can be nimble as well but most are still exploring how to do it.
The Strategy is Value Creation — Part 2: Minimum Viable Learning by Doing focuses on how we can use approaches like Lean, Agile and Design Thinking to uncover purpose and create value based on it. In Part 3 we’ll also be looking at how an organization that is built around purposeful customer value creation might organize itself.
ResponsiveOrg Finland invites you to explore and promote practices by which teams and organizations can be better at responsiveness to changes, people, futures and operating as a network.