Whenever we kick of a strategy study in our consulting business with a client, we face a classic choice – do we involve the team from the start or work in a think tank and then syndicate the results. I was fascinated to notice that this dilemma occurs more often as mentioned in the recent BBC Article ‘The Difficult Art of a Good Brainstorm’.
There are many relevant points in the article but I think a fundamental point has been omitted that applies to many organisations, especially larger ones. It is of little relevance how good the idea is as long as the organisation does not buy into it. Therefore consulting the wider team in early stages can be critical to paving the way to future radical change. In order to achieve a mental alignment, it is important to to assess early on whether the strategy is likely to just be an ‘evolution’ from where you are today or more a ‘revolution’.
If you are seeking to evolve and perhaps adjust your strategic thinking through incremental changes, then planning this in a small group of experts in a think tank with a later business rollout, will probably meet fewer resistance from the wider team that were not involved in designing the change. When the change is merely an evolution, it is likely that the existing team will recognize the improvement and buy-in effortlessly since the overall impact on their lives is not as great as with a ‘revolutionary’ change.
However by comparison, when the change is larger and more radical, call it a ‘revolution’, whilst the think tank may generate good ideas – implementation may prove difficult and will meet greater resistance if the wider team does not buy into the change in this scenario. The later you involve them in the process the more likely they are to resist any implementation because they will feel left out, not consulted and therefore prone to put up barriers. From our point of view, when a strategy is likely to evoke more radical adjustments to the landscape of processes, systems and people’s daily lives, it is worth considering having some wider brainstorm sessions involving a large share of the affected group. It may be that the output is not useful and that the inner circle think tank knows the best (although don’t write off being surprised by some even better ideas from the base), but the value will show later as the team will feel consulted and part of the transition process. This can not only reduce the risk of internal resistance but can even open up the opportunity to win supporters for the proposed change.
So next time you kick of your strategic decision making process, decide early when, how and with whom you will seek ideas and syndicate them.