Agile Strategic Planning - a Learn by Doing Approach
A lesser known fact about Prosono, is that many of our practitioners come from the education sector. In the world of education, the idea of learning by doing is commonplace. Many people call it application, practicing, trial by error, or play based. Its value is the ability for the student to learn both the concrete (observation), and the abstract (principles and theories in relation to the observation). Research clearly reinforces the incredible value of how doing something increases the success of that end desire. At Prosono, we have taken this old learning method and applied it to business strategy.
Prosono first developed our method for strategy, what we call Organizational Agility, in looking at software development’s common development method of Agile Development. Prosono has deep experience in agile development and valued the idea of running tests and continually evaluating based on what is adding value to the customer and from the product. Organizational Agility – an agile strategic planning method takes the same approach but with your strategy. It is common for organizations to decide strategy through privilege, power, human dynamics, and intuition. Organizational Agility, in contrast to Predict and Prescribe model, defines the core assumption(s) of the strategy and tests them directly to the existing market to be (in)validated. One client told us it is like getting, ‘multiple bites at the apple.’
Before we get into our planning process, it is important to note some of the myths and challenges we see with discussing Organizational Agility. Organizations get sheepish when you talk about learning, experimenting and testing. In fact, many business leaders express their concerns with “experimenting” on their business and conjure up visuals of consultants in white lab coats, beakers, and funky chemicals. The other major concern we hear from clients is that this process takes too long. Specifically, we hear things like “this process risks our strategy being replicated. Others will see me as not moving fast enough We could be second to market if we wait. What if we put in the work and this fails?” We recognize that these are both natural push back to a new approach to strategy, however, in every instance of delivering our strategy approach clients are assured that experimentation will be done in a manner that is reversable, in an effort to learn. Additionally, experiments are conducted by their own employee experts and not the white lab coat consultants. An ‘experiment’ is simply a test or a pilot. Specific to those executing the experiments, our approach inherently builds capacity in resiliency and agility for the client, which is one of the key requirements in the future economy. Agile strategy brings certainty to big assumptions in strategy, and it supports a work environment of data and proof as the decision requirements.
The ultimate goal of Agile Strategic Planning is to remove as much uncertainty as possible from your path forward. We do this through a series of experiments (or tests) to learn more about the inherent assumptions that you believe but do not have evidence to prove. To visualize the process of Agile Strategic planning we often use the Prosono “Hill Chart” to explain the continuous learning process of building to a validated strategy (explore) and then implementing the strategy (exploit) until your desired outcomes are met. We use this graphic to explain a lot of what we do at Prosono as all of our services are iterative, but it particularly highlights how we infuse learn by doing via several cycles of “plan, do, check, act.” This helps us continually learn about inherent biases and minimizes the number of outstanding assumptions an organization has about its approach(es). Check out our next post on the high-level elements of our approach in getting to a validated strategy.
For more information on Organizational Agility for Non-Profit organizations check out our past blog post here.