Board strategic options: using Option Solving

Somewhat recent discussions with an international Board prompted consider-ation of the various options they had for pursuing their strategic activities. Conventional wisdom will usually lead executive teams to pursue a strategic plan, which certainly has its merits relative to other more seat-of-the-pants approaches toward leading an enterprise forward.
However, strategic planning has its drawbacks like anything else, including being an oxymoron -since you cannot analyse and synthesize simultaneously – and its SWOT approach at the outset considerably reduces the possibility of involvement and producing a compelling vision. Hence other more vision oriented approaches are emerging, like strategic framing, transformational strategizing, or even “Dream, Focus, Commit, Act.”
These possibilities create new opportunities for Boards or executive teams to utilize an alternative, more leading-edge approach toward their strategic contem-plations. For those Boards already familiar with the option solving approach, they will be ready to devise a rationally based question to pose to their intuitive decision making powers. In this case, this particular Board’s question for consideration came to be: “What is the right alternative for our Board to pursue its strategic activities; considering there are difference strategic experience levels on the Board, we already have a strategic plan in play, there are fundamental differences between planning and framing, and we seek to have Board members fully engaged in our strategy?” Other important considerations were noted, but these seemed to be the most relevant. They will do their job of helping their intuitive judgment to put things into full perspective.
Board members were then challenged to determine two bookends that would set unlikely limits and tease their intuitive minds to come up with more appropriate and likely options. These bookends turned out to be, at one end “Use an Ad Hoc, seat of the pants approach to strategy,” as the Yin, while the Yang at the other end was: “Members attend 2-3 day strategic workshop at top business school to decide.” You will find the reasons why these two extreme options proved unacceptable in our Latest Example. With these bookends in place, the intuitive minds of the Board members were already churning over likely, realistic options.
At this point, members were invited to produce at least five options; so as to stretch their creative, intuitive senses to look at every reasonable possibility. One of the five, although not necessarily the one members ultimately chose, was: “Produce a Transformational Strategy – starting with Competence-Capability analogies “…Option D. The four other considered options are shown under our Latest Example tab… click on the tab and take a look.
Now a complete pictogram is in place, since our intuitive mind prefers to interpret pictures. The Board was now presented the opportunity to allow emotional distancing to aid their decision making. This is where they would put the pictogram out of sight and allow members to pursue some other agenda items for a while. At some agreed point, from 10-15 minutes onward, giving their intuitive thoughts chance to subconsciously review their internalized pictogram, they reconvened to quickly refresh their minds and then make an intuitive choice.
Individual choices were made confidentially, by “paper ballot,” to avoid a herd mentality rush to judgment. There was a majority choice, although, in the case of close calls, discussion around the choices should be made, and then a fresh poll can be taken…again confidentially. Chances are a more clear majority will emerge. What choice would you have made, if you were in their shoes?
Once that choice was made, they determined a related action initiative immediately, while all the issues were much to the top of their minds..
If you have an option solving example of your own, please share it with this blogger, through the COMMENTS area.
Thanks Option Solving. (NOTE: Next posting in 2 weeks: “What is our best option for pursuing Board Operational activities?” Let’s have your COMMENTS or go to peter@ileadershipsolutions.com to connect with the blogger.)

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