Last night’s presentation by Frederic Laloux, author of the wildly popular Reinventing Organizations, got me rethinking the way that my colleagues and I have been undoing the dominant strategic planning paradigm ~ leadership retreat dedicated to some iteration of S.W.O.T., values and mission setting followed by action planning.
As Art of Hosting practitioners, we like to re-frame strategy sessions with the premise that while planning in complexity is impossible, we can prepare to respond more strategically. Suggesting that it’s more strategic to go forward without a traditional plan can sound ridiculous, especially when holding a position of accountability in a hierarchical organization that is designed around set deliverables with exact due dates.
While the production-to-market-schedule of the product/service is not what is being challenged by the suggestion to expect less from “the plan”, the first reaction from leadership and management is usually to defend the necessity of a well orchestrated plan. Let’s assume that having a plan or plans is a given for a moment. Every routinized machine-like process (making payroll, meeting government regulations for day care, scheduling counseling appointments, maintaining infrastructure, etc.) requires a design map and plan for the most efficient and effective operation. Great, do that and do it well.
Now, also consider that the people and environment that surround the machine-like aspects of the organization are living systems that change consistently and respond rapidly to constant stimulation. How do we strategically plan for that?
Laloux found a common thread among the 12 organizations that he researched (including multi-site industrial companies with thousands of employees) that are operating with a living systems framework (instead of the dominant Industrial Age factory model); none of them have strategic plans. Instead, these organizations are designed/prepared for rapid response to the constant shifts and changes (including those that result from individual and organizational learning) in a dynamic world.
He suggests that these plan-less organizations function by embracing the living systems paradigm and integrating practices of:
What does it take to effectively integrate participatory, real-time strategy practices into organizations that have not fully embraced the living systems paradigm?
What is the minimal understanding of the living systems paradigm necessary for participatory real-time strategic thinking to be useful?
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