Strategic Doing — getting to metamodernity

Strategic DoingTM is a process where strategy emerges through the continuous asking of four questions.

  • What could we do? + What should we do — enable us to answer, Where are we going?
  • What will we do? + What’s our 30/30? [what did we learn in the past 30 days & what will we do in the next 30 days?] — provide us with an emerging pathway.

Strategic Doing comprises 10 skills and the book’s authors state that of 500 projects in one initiative, the most successful teams consistently used eight of these skills, while the least successful used only two.

  1. Building a safe space for deep and focused conversations.

  2. Using an appreciative question to frame your conversation.

  3. Identifying the assets at your disposal, including the hidden ones.

  4. Linking and leveraging your assets to create new opportunities.

  5. Identifying a big opportunity where you can generate momentum.

  6. Rewriting your opportunity as a strategic outcome with measurable characteristics.

  7. Defining a small starting project to start moving toward your outcome.

  8. Creating a short-term action plan in which everyone takes a small step.

  9. Meeting every 30 days to review progress, adjust, and plan for the next 30 days.

  10. Nudging, connecting, and promoting to reinforce your new habits of collaboration.

This book is based on 25 years of experience of the five authors. The process of Strategic Doing is fairly simple and easy to understand, which gives it the robustness needed to deal with complex challenges. I have done or seen parts of this in action, and there are some practices I know that align well with Strategic Doing. For example, some Liberating Structures would help with Skills #1 & #9 and value network analysis could be useful for Skills #3 & #4.

Strategic doing is based on a distributed view of leadership. The book’s full title is ‘Strategic Doing: Ten Skills for Agile Leadership.

“We thought long and hard about the title and the perspective from which we wrote this book. We eventually settled on the perspective of ‘leadership’. But we do not mean leadership in the traditional sense of the inspired individual sitting on the top of the organization … Our focus is not on the individual leader but rather on leadership as a ‘shared characteristic of a group or a team. Elsewhere in this book we’ve used the phrase ‘distributed leadership’ or ‘shared leadership’.

There is a lot of research behind Strategic Doing as well. The ‘Learn More’ references are extensive. For instance, I noticed that the book refers to The Medici Effect and Where Good Ideas Come From as well as the work of Valdis Krebs in network analysis and Amy Edmondson in psychological safety. What I like best about this book is that you can start practicing and developing these skills immediately. There are many courses offered through the Strategic Doing network but I intend to use this framework immediately as it is the best guide I have read on addressing collective complex challenges.

Two related books I would suggest to complement this one are — It’s Not Complicated, and Collaborating with the Enemy with its focus on ‘stretch collaboration’. Here is the Strategic Doing Credo.

  • We believe we have a responsibility to build a prosperous, sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.

  • No individual, organization, or place can build that future alone.

  • Open, honest, focused, and caring collaboration among diverse participants is the path to accomplishing clear, valuable, shared outcomes.

  • We believe in doing, not just talking — and in behavior in alignment with our beliefs.

This Credo aligns with the Nordic Bildung concept of metamodernity, by Lene Rachel Andersen, which describes a society based on networks of meaning. One challenge in developing a metamodern society is to take the positive aspects of what previous human cultures have achieved and go beyond these to deal with the complexities of modern technologies, the climate emergency, and evolving political situations. Strategic Doing is a pragmatic approach to start this movement and it can be practiced individually, in small groups, or in larger communities and networks.

The Nordic Bildung perspective of societal evolution aligns with David Ronfeldt’s TIMN Model, which I have discussed in — understanding the shift. Andersen suggests we can build upon the positive aspects of each previous societal form in order to create a metamodern society, and move beyond the constantly doubting post-modern era. We do not need to destroy all of the old ways.

In Strategic Doing, with its 10 skills and credo, we now have a tool to help us move society in a positive direction toward metamodernity.

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