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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why Strategy Should Start With Practice (Not The Other Way Around)

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Traditionally, a strategist operates remotely from the problem. While this is helpful in that the strategist has access to many different perspectives and can offer an academic response, it is also harmful in that this person is normally not frontline operational.
So we pose abstract problems, get a theoretical analysis, choose a path (for whatever reason, maybe logical and maybe political, cultural, psychological, etc.), write it down, call it a strategy, and then divide it up into parts. Everyone gets a piece to work on.

To my mind that doesn't work because as soon as you start working with a piece you get all sorts of problems that couldn't be envisioned at the abstract level.

Preferable to me is to start with the people who are at the front line, who would feel the impact of the desired end state the most. Give them NOT a strategy but a problem and then ASK them to fix it.

The people who work on the problem will be located in many different geographical locations, normally. They can develop a solution to their piece of the puzzle and then offer it up to others for analysis. A substantial number of problem-solvers working together can amalgamate a solution that is then distilled upward and pronounced a vision.

Here is the difference:

* Model 1: New parent reads a psychoanalytic best practice book on parenting and tries to implement it with baby. Can the parent implement that advice or does it need some adapting to the person's unique reality?

* Model 2: New parent has child, talks to other parents and goes online to read about particular issues, and basically crowdsources a philosophy of childrearing.

In a sense this is a feminist analysis of strategy.

- The dominant model is to isolate strategy from practice, formulate it in a hierarchical manner, and "distribute it" top-down with little specialized pieces going from person to person. Makes sense logically but with real people rarely works.

- The feminist model, a.k.a. the social media approach, has crowdsourcing via multiple nodes of interconnected networks, with none privileged over another, and the result emerging from practice rather than theory.

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Originally posted as a comment on GovLoop.
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