We’ve had the privilege of working with our friend and Professor Peter Boumgarden over recent months as we’ve developed the core strategy and goals for PeopleIT. Peter is a breath of fresh air as he brings new thinking with practical tools to implement and experience real impact.
We recently caught up with Peter while he was navigating his way through the airport after a family vacation. With a backdrop of gate calls and seating instructions, he shared his insight and approach for strategic work within growing companies. Let’s hear from Peter:
Noticing when it is time to hit the pause button
There are many reasons a company or team may decide to enter into strategic planning and vision casting. Here are some indicators that it may be time for you to press pause and enter in.
For some companies, it can be easy to slip into a state of reactivity in day-to-day work. Allowing the immediate needs, issues, and demands to dictate workflow and direction can stifle the forward-thinking necessary to create a growth edge and reach new goals. It is critical for companies to notice the early stages of “mindlessness” with day to day minutia overpowering the living strategy.
Settling Into B+ Behavior
One of the biggest problems for organizations is when they settle into B+ performance. In this space, a lack of “crisis” means many leaders fail to see that this might be the best time to rethink your approach, especially if a B+ is a signal of an early problem. Mindful strategy means discerning when these early indicators might, in fact, be signs of a real need to rethink one’s current strategic approach.
Old model is not working
Leaders are often more open to change when the original systems and processes from the past fail to work in the same way. This is similar to when a team keeps hitting the same wall or coming up against invisible limits and barriers for growth. Teams here are more open to rethinking “the way we have always done it.”
One of the keys is to pay attention to early indicators of more complex issues. People metrics such as high turnover or employee disengagement can be signs of deeper issues. In these cases, it is important to recognize the signal for what it is and then to dig into what might be a more systemic problem.
So what happens in the pause?
When stepping into a season of Vision Casting and Strategic Planning, Peter invites companies to a thoughtful approach with these four guides:
A Fresh Set of Eyes
Standing smack in the middle of our work and daily grind makes it hard to see clearly and objectively. Peter engages case-based thinking to offer a chance to look at the current problem through a fresh set of eyes. Case thinking helps leaders engage with a sample from an external company and then find ways to apply the insights found to their own organization.
Don’t end where you begin
Teams can be eager to take off running with the first great idea. Some of the greatest insights of methods like design thinking tie to the importance of generating multiple ideas before moving to the conclusion. The first ideas that emerge when you enter this space should only serve as kindling. Don’t stop with the first great idea, but rather let it spark and blaze into another thought and another until your sitting in the heat of a roaring fire. This process can uncover potentially groundbreaking results.
Play like Jazz
This work cannot follow a strict template. It needs space for a creative dance, where all parties come in openly, finding their unique way to enter the collective rhythm. Each participant brings a specific set of tools and experience and together they hold space by removing constraints on the process and any specific outcomes. Peter says, “Let it be more like jazz. Find a way to play with the scales rather than staying line by line on the sheet music.”
Leverage team strengths
As leaders, we all have slightly (or sometimes vastly) different perspectives. There is great opportunity in bringing distinct visions to the same conversation. For example, within any group, there are usually people who align more closely with dreaming and others that feel more comfortable doing. It is critical for those people to have space to both lean into their independent strengths while also pairing them with the other to make dreams a reality.
Thank you, Peter for your time, energy and insights!
If you want to stay connected to Peter and get a fresh dose of his thinking in your inbox on a regular basis, sign-up for his newsletter.
Peter Boumgarden, PhD is Professor of Practice of Strategy & Organizations at Washington University in St. Louis. He works with clients who are really interested in creating healthy companies and thriving places for people to work while also producing outcomes for the world that are contributing to a more good + true + beautiful place for everyone.