Leading Strategic Initiatives Blog: Tools and Insights for Turning Vision into Results

Greg Githens has substantial direct experience in designing, developing, leading and coaching the direction of strategic initiative programs. BONEZONE readers first met Mr. Githens in 2008 at his OMTEC workshop, “Practices and Skills for Innovation and High-Speed New Product Development.” Since then, his OMTEC sessions have built upon his message of delivering tools for immediate use in performance enhancement.

Entries in Greg’s blog, Leading Strategic Initiatives, encourage readers to efficiently structure, plan, prioritize and implement high-risk, high-reward initiatives. The fresh, frequently-updated content isn’t exclusive to executive management; the ultimate success comes from interdependence: leveraging our colleagues, direct reports, managers, suppliers and partners to achieve goals and corporate directives.

In Greg’s OMTEC 2011 session, he asked his audience to voice the #1 complaint in NPD (new product development). Can you guess the answer?

COMMUNICATION.

Similarly, the #2 complaint is UNCLEAR GOALS and RESPONSIBILITIES.

Does any of this sound familiar? Anyone leading a group, team, colleague or partner must expect to encounter ambiguity and recognize that they cannot have a stand-alone perspective when attempting to push strategic initiatives forward.

In Greg’s entries on Strategic Thinking he stresses the importance of tolerance and patience, and of asking strong-minded questions to encourage others to voice their interpretation of what “done” means. The definition of ambiguity, after all, is “having two or more meanings or interpretations, unclear, confusing.” Don’t assume that because you’ve said something, your audience has not only heard it, but sees it as you see it.

Helpful questions to consider at the onset of your initiative include:
• What does “done” look like to those responsible for the deliverable?
• What does “done” look like to the primary stakeholders?
• Are there different opinions about what constitutes an appropriate performance measure?
• Is there agreement on how to rank the importance of activities and goals?

Each view must be clarified to keep powering forth. Ambiguity is an essential quality of strategy formulation, because different perspectives and interpretations generate new ideas…so, ambiguity isn’t all bad, but it must be tamed. As opinions are voiced, ask “is this a problem or an opportunity?” The strategic leader’s job includes sense-making: picking the signals from the noise, and arranging them with logic to achieve consensus.


Tips:

Imagine logical future consequences. Questions that support this include:
• What are the likely consequences of this decision?
• Can we manage the adverse consequences for risk events that we’ve chosen to accept?

Look for opportunities to apply ingenuity. Questions that support this include:
• Where have others found similar problems, opportunities and solutions?
• What barrier, if removed, would allow us to make amazing progress?

A strong mind can be built. And, strong minds are valued in all positions and ranks, from executive management to the shop floor. Suggestions for building mental robustness include:

• Limit mistakes. Identify possible mistakes that could be made by querying your stakeholders. (For the record, a weak-minded leader might fail to ask the abundance of questions listed herein. Ask.)
• Cultivate emotional resilience. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by information, grief, hurt feelings, change. Strong minded people do not let anger or fears destroy progress, but maintain a key skill: detachment.
• Develop a capacity for self-reflection. Criticize yourself in the spirit of growth, based in the desire for performance.
• Generate alternate solution pathways. Try numerous strategies—knowing that some will work and some will fail.
• Balance action with contemplation. Action without reflection is impulsiveness. Reflection without action is procrastination.


This article has highlighted only one of the hundreds of ways this blog offers guidance in leading strategic initiatives.

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