During the most recent training workshop I gave on ecosystem strategy development, three questions were raised which I hear often, namely: where to start? Whom to include? and …how to actually get people to show up? Here are my thoughts on these questions.
Q: Where do you start?
A: From wherever you are. If you are an executive, invite employees, clients, suppliers, community members to develop that common vision. If you are an internal service provider, gather with other internal service providers in other departments to develop a common vision of how you will collectively deliver better. It’s ok to think big & start small. It’s also ok to think big and start big.
Q: Who should be included?
A: Start from where you are +1. The +1 signifies going outside your comfort zone. Prod the organizational culture & resources further than past strategic planning exercises. If you are an executive, your first step may be to develop an ecosystem strategy together with employees. If that’s how you usually develop strategy, push the envelope and invite key suppliers and clients. Over time, this may grow to a larger community of suppliers, industry experts, investors. If you are a team leader, pushing the envelope may mean including other teams.
Q: How do you get people into the room and keep them engaged?
A: By communicating the importance of the work being done and assuring participants that their perspectives are valuable and will be valued. No one wants to invest their time and energy, and not have their perspective heard and accounted for. So, I say something like, ‘Your perspective is so important to the common vision and strategy that is being developed.” And they will see it through the workshop design…the strategic planning process should not be or feel like a series of meetings. This is where an expert strategic planner will make a big difference in the results.
People, unfortunately, have become accustomed to not being heard, and don’t want to engage in a strategic planning process that will yield more of the same. The great leaders I work with realize the power of inclusion, true inclusion, of opinions and approaches that differ from theirs. Great strategic planners take the organization’s culture, past processes and participants’ inputs into account during the design phase of the strategic planning process.
There are, of course, some people I work with who do not see it yet. I do work with them, and they eventuyally come around. How? because they realise for themselves that there are a great number of blind spots in their strategic plans, that have emerged from a lack complete anlaysis. The best data comes out of true inclusion – diverting opinions can serve as valuable clues to where to go look for new information, thus creating a more robust analysis.
I often tell the story of the visionary CEO I had the pleasure of working with, who invited everyone from Board Members to the building maintenance staff, as well as government officials and community organizations. Not everyone showed up. But those who did put their heart into developing a strategy that was much bigger than their own affiliation.
Bottom line: ecosystem strategy is challenging to develop, no question about it. Any small step towards including more perspectives in one clear, concise, and aspirational common vision will yield better results than a strategy that is developed with only a “view from the inside.”
If you’re interested in delving deeper, check out my series of brief videos on ecosystem strategy. As always, don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you’d like to discuss!
Written by Lesley Antoun
Lesley Antoun creates crystal clear strategies with leaders, with their teams and with their organizations. Her consulting firm has offered advisory services and strategic planning expertise to small privately-held companies, large publicly traded corporations, Crown corporations, Universities and First Nations organizations.