By Steven Sacks
We've all questioned how worthwhile meetings can be (or a real time-waster when there is no agenda developed and no objective is articulated). So I recommend reading the book Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change, co-authored by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon.
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How many of us are having a productive day until the meeting fire alarm rings – sometimes without advance notice – that just puts a pin in your productive balloon, negatively impacts your mood and attitude and makes you wonder if you should have just hidden under your desk?
The idea behind a strategic conversation is predicated on creating a collaborative environment, the premise of which is to build consensus. Think of all the external factors that impact our firms or businesses: increased competition, new products, the latest and greatest technologies, and changing customer requirements. No one individual, be it the CEO, COO, CFO or CIO can provide the solution. You need to employ the best and brightest in the room, all of whom share the same values and level of commitment to the firm’s or organization’s success.
And don’t think that you have to go to outside consultants for solutions that your people can identify and implement.
The Ertel and Solomon book introduce the concept of strategic conversations. It is natural to have a jaundiced view of what the end results will be because this approach was never used. In a period of rapid changes, economic uncertainty, governance problems, and leadership battles, strategic conversations should go beyond the boardroom to the offices and into the cubicles.
And if your firm or organization has been operating with a silo mentality, here is an excellent reason to break it apart.
Everyone gets a chance to speak, participate in the brainstorming and to exhibit a level of creative and innovative thinking. The key rule is that there is no such thing as a silly idea. Silliness exists only if contributions are ignored or dismissed.
Additionally, leaders should not be so quick to reach out to the consultant gurus who will box you into a strategic plan – usually templated. Moments of Impact will enable you to identify ideas that you would have summarily dismissed in the past. And if you all agree, consider this a REALLY big achievement.
Gauging Where Your Organization Stands
One of the most valuable elements of the book is a 60-page starter kit that builds on what the authors describe as a strategic conversation compass. The most important goal is to define your purpose and satisfy this by:
- Setting the scene – characterizing the strengths and weaknesses of the firm or organization
- Making it an experience for all involved
- Framing the issues without digressing or having the idea-sharing devolve into blame or excuses
- Engaging multiple perspectives; the more you hear the better, the more risk-taking you may have an appetite for
The breadth and coverage of this book offer benefits to groups that range from B-school students, CPAs, CEOs, academicians and any organization that can leverage the positive elements of inviting and encouraging input.