How It Works?

Engaging With Senior Clients To Solve Complex Challenges                                       

Group Partners Approach

A senior client will approach us most likely because of our impartiality or the uniqueness of our approach in terms of their challenge. A meeting/series of meetings will have taken place during which we/they begin to understand that the traditional approaches have not scratched the surface of their problem and that there has been little engagement by the leaders in the change. They will also begin to understand that they have probably not fully grasped the complete or systemic nature of the challenge.

Structured Visual Thinking™ & 4D™

Quite simply our philosophy, Structured Visual Thinking™, relies on structure and high quality thinking with leadership teams to create coherent solutions – answers to the most important challenges for businesses and governments around the world. We do this by using very visual frameworks which at the very highest level involve the 4 frameworks of Discovery, Development, Decision and Deployment. What we call 4D™

Rigorous Impartiality

From the minute we engage we are immersing ourselves in the culture of the client. We are doing this informally or through meetings, talking with some of the leadership and always by crafting a particular understanding of the available data. We begin processing and iterating that input – often working virtually to build a unique understanding. This kind of framework thinking is a proven and efficient way to work – it reduces the overhead on clients and ensures we remain objective. We are also bringing our experiences to bear but without fixing our opinions too early.

The principles and logic of the frameworks are rigorous and proven in well over 2500 cases around the world. Against this logic, and through impartial facilitation we create a safe space for intelligent debate. This means we can make countless objective observations as a team and identify critical gaps and add new creativity and innovation. We can identify the gaps and add valuable creativity because the framework itself keeps us honest. The benefit of working this way is twofold. It reduces the overhead of clients time (and cycle time) and creates an extremely valuable platform of logic within a powerful sequence and it provides a vital hypothesis for further work to deepen the executable phases.

Strategy is a story that needs to be able to be told. As a story based on logic it can come to life for everyone – not just those who designed it. Every story and every strategy has a beginning a middle and an end. For this story to be compelling it means answering important questions, it means creating a coherent framework for the future within which all the dimensions have meaningful linkages and relationships across them. We work through these either directly or indirectly within the sweep of every assignment. These things are either be dealt with directly in collaboration or indirectly through remote work.

A basic program consists of:

1. Assimilation: Remote review, immersion and synthesis of the clients information. Understanding their ‘journey so far’. Beginning to refine the ‘exam question’ and identifying that alongside the current intentions and aspirations as relates to strategy. This can be a mixture of sharing existing material (in whatever form it exists in) and some wider consultation so that we continue to involve the entire group and take advantage of any opportunity to gather all the perspectives before we move into the framework development

2. Shaping The Thinking: The translation of the data gathering exercise against the logic of the framework. This is the Structured Visual Thinking™ process.

This is a mixture of:

  • Not re-inventing any work done that is valid – staying true to any existing work done
  • Being holistic, system and above all objective to identify inappropriate thinking or gaps
  • Adding creative thinking and innovation to elevate/emphasise the ideas and ambitions and testing for any potential inconsistencies, gaps or augmentation in the logic and rationale

3. Co-Creation – Tool Development: Creation of visual stimulus needed to support the intervention phase. These are pre-built visual tools – a sophisticated digital framework containing all of our learning from the above. These are designed to show familiarity with the context but stopping short of showing an opinion or bias towards any solution. They are powerful ways to create a safe and efficient working environment and can fast track the relatively short amount s of time we can get with senior leaders.

4. The Intervention: We typically achieve 2/3 days of live collaborative work with the senior members of the business where we consider the evolution of the strategy – taking in the context that we will have developed ahead of the session. Ahead of this we will spend a day of preparation before anyone arrives at the specially prepared and suitable venue

5. Consolidation: Everything that we have worked on from the start of the programme will be brought together at each stage and organised/structured in a way that supports the development of the final deliverables, with a strong emphasis on equipping the team and partners to communicate and further sustain the work themselves.

6. Explaining 4D™

PrintArmed with a valid Exam Question and Intentional Framework

In Discovery:

  1. The business goals are?
  2. The business does what?
  3. The stakeholders are?
  4. The stakeholder needs and wants are?
  5. The consumers/customers/beneficiaries are?
  6. The customer needs and wants are?
  7. The possible future scenarios as a result of the above might be?
  8. The value proposition and story therefore is?
  9. We will make decisions by which criteria?
  10. The new capabilities and culture we need is?
  11. The timelines looks like?

In Development:

  1. The Strategic Outcome is? -
  2. The metrics that signal the Strategic Outcome (in point 1) are?
  3. The Current Reality (the context that is driving us to need a fresh strategy) looks like?
  4. The Future Vision that inspires and ensures we can explain what the Outcome (point?1) and Metrics (point 2) would really feel and look like? (The 30 second test)
  5. As a tension between the future vision and current reality – what then are the business imperatives?
  6. How do we need to operate if we are to achieve this new future vision and strategy? The Operating Model.
  7. Ultimately how do we do this. What strategies and initiatives are involved in pulling this off?
  8. What does the road-map look like in terms of events, milestones, horizons and how do all the initiatives lay down in terms of time and sequence (dependencies and implications) and what do we need to stop doing to create the capacity to make this happen.

In Decision:

  1. What will we start doing?
  2. What will we stop doing?
  3. What will we stay doing?

In Deployment:

  1. How will we sustain this over time?

After each Intervention phase we consolidate the work conducted throughout into a set of formal deliverables that we agree with during the program, but as a minimum would include:

  1. The set of Visual Frameworks in a reproducible format with supporting narration – at the heart of this is a compelling vision with the start of the emerging ‘story’.
  2. A guide for the team responsible for taking the work forward. This covers all the context and rational for the outcomes captured in the framework as well as explanations of the framework logic and how to sustain that as new information emerges
  3. If we have set up a dedicated space in our collaboration hub (Podio) we can continue to work on the information – it is normal for us not to complete the ‘road-map’ in detail in group sessions and there is always more work needed to validate, define and map out the initiatives that will have been identified.
  4. We can make this platform available to the team to continue to work collaboratively beyond the workshops – and this also allows us to continue to provide support and guidance as needed while transitioning the maintenance of the frameworks over to the team.
  5. We like to equip the internal team to take full ownership of the outcomes but we’re very aware that some support is needed. We can suggest various models for this that still honor the ownership point and are geared to building internal capability.

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johncaswell @johncaswell
John Caswell  @johncaswell
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