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Your strategy for the new world


You and your team are faced with a challenge.


On the one hand the world you need to engage with has changed. The behaviours and attitudes of customers have changed and are changing further as they adapt to an ever changing new normal. What worked before may well not work now and in the future.


Is there a way for you to adapt and become one of the future winners or should you shut up shop and concentrate your energies elsewhere?


The strategic conversation challenge


You can no longer gather all your colleagues in a room to discuss the issue – to have the strategic conversation. You are all spread out – some working from home, some in the office observing new social distancing arrangements.


Yes, you now use Zoom or some other web conferencing service. However, you are becoming increasingly aware of their limitations. Even though you can see participants the images are too many and too small to pick up on the non-verbal signals which alert you to issues in face to face meetings.


In addition, when dealing with a highly uncertain future, as we face today, each participant in the conversation will have their own implicit set of assumptions they bring to the table. If these remain implicit the group will never be able to reach an agreement about what to do since they all have a different view of how they see the world working.


For example, if you consider the restaurant sector: Some team members may believe you can raise prices 50% and still fill a reduced capacity restaurant, other may believe you can only raise prices by 10% at most without having an empty establishment. Some may believe that customers want a fully sanitised experience with screens and full PPE, others may believe that customers want the minimum disruption to previous experience possible. How can a team with such diverse starting points possibly come to a rational consensus decision. It can’t.


So how do you have the strategic conversation in the team to find the best way forward?


You can have a successful strategic conversation, and find the best solution for your business, by converting the implicit assumptions in individual minds to a view of the world shared by the team.


This is because:


· You remove the disagreements that stem from different implicit assumption sets

· Everyone is working on the same problem definition – so mental energy is expended in the right area

· The team can unite in a shared vision of the way forward – which they can then all play their part in implementing


So how can you achieve this in the new online world?


The answer is to create a visual representation of the business system you are grappling with – one that all participants buy into.


To get there you first need to understand the implicit assumption sets in each of the participants’ mind. You do this through a 1 to 1 interview using a set of trigger questions to get each team member to put their assumptions and issues on the table. This should be done by an independent facilitator on an anonymous basis so that no-one feels threatened for expressing their views.


You then need to make sense of all the issues raised by creating a diagram of the business world showing each issue and how it interrelates with others. You may have seen business system diagrams or influence diagrams. These are however not enough. To make real sense of the world you need to think through what value looks like – since that is what you are trying to find a way of maximising. You then need to think through how each of the issues impacts on value. The resultant diagram is called a “Value Map”.


You then play back the map to the team and let them challenge it. Given it is built out of their answers to the trigger questions you will find that challenge is minimal because they see the picture as originating from them.


You then ask the question – if this is how the new world works – what are our options. You then discuss them and arrive at a robust and sustainable view of the best strategy for moving forward.


Doing this is not new!


I have been creating value maps since the late 80’s – albeit for face to face team discussion.

What is interesting is that taking the process on-line makes it much more efficient.

For example, I used to carry out interviews face to face with an audio recorder, then transcribe the interviews and get them checked by the interviewee. In an online interview the transcript is visible real time on screen for correction immediately.


In the beginning the diagram was built up piece by piece on a metal whiteboard or walls using large magnetic hexagons in the former case or large hexagonal post-it notes in the latter case. What people said about each element of the diagram would be fed back using PowerPoint projected on a large screen. In the online world the software is now available to show both the build of the picture and the accompanying quotes in a captivating video. And the feedback materials can now be produced in a fraction of the time it used to take.

In the old world all participants would be gathered in a room and asked by the team leader to agree with final version by physically raising their hands. In today’s world we have electronic hands.


The whole process can be effectively and efficiently managed through Zoom or its equivalents.


If you would like to find out more take a look at Value Mapping or get in touch. I am always delighted to have a conversation on having good strategic conversations.

  • Peter Franklin

Updated: Mar 20

Growth of e-learning

Whilst most management learning is still centred on the classroom there has been a rapid growth in e-learning over the past decade. Many of the top business schools offer Massive Open Online Courses and YouTube is awash with instructional videos – for virtually any subject under the sun. In tandem with the growth in popularity of e-learning has been a recognition of the potential for high drop-out rates on e-learning courses.


The new Corona world

Over the last twenty years we have seen significant growth in homeworking. Many professionals now spend at least one day per week “working from home”.

The corona virus is forcing businesses and organisations to restrict social contact. Organisations across the world are now asking their staff to work from home and to restrict gathering together. The aim, of course, is to protect the health of the workforce – and to maintain business continuity in the face of the threat of mass staff unavailability due to illness.


From a learning perspective this creates both a threat and an opportunity.

The threat is that learning opportunities disappear as training just gets cancelled and learning on the job from peers just cannot take place. This in the long term, leads to lower skill levels, and in turn lower sales, lower quality outputs, lower customer satisfaction which inevitably results in lost revenues and profits.


If home working is a short lived temporary feature, the loss of learning will not have much impact. However, if we are looking at many months, or even a year or more the impacts could be significant.


Indeed many organisations may well find that home working works well and shift the post-Corona balance between office based work and home based work towards the home - thus reducing real estate costs significantly. However, if this comes at the cost of organisational learning the trade off could do more harm than good.


The opportunity is for the out-of-office time to be used to build skills and knowledge through e-learning, which in turn leads to improved performance and profits. However, if e-training initiatives are to be truly successful they need to include interventions that reduce drop-out rates.


So, what should your organisation do?


You need to take advantage of the changing work environment to build the skills and knowledge which lead to improved performance.


And you can do this by:


1. Capitalising on the shift in time balance


As a consequence of the Coronavirus outbreak the balance of time has shifted further from the office to the home. For many staff this may well mean more time in an environment with less distractions than a busy and bustling office – which is perfect for e-learning.

For staff with children, and schools closed this will not be the case. However, given home workers do manage to separate work time from family time they should also be able to carve out some time for training. One of the characteristics of e-learning is that subjects are broken down into short modules which can be slotted into appropriate e-learning windows.

In addition, shifting the balance of time to homeworking also removes the time spent commuting potentially freeing up many hours per week for e-learning initiatives.


2. Use blended learning


By this we mean ensure that there is a tutored component to the learning. Experience has shown that having some tutor involvement is vital for two reasons.


a. When a student goes through the learning material on their own, they may well misunderstand some things, or not fully take on board others, and have questions unanswered. Having a web-based session with an expert tutor enables these mis-learnings to be surfaced and corrected – which yields a far better outcome than self-study alone.


b. When a student knows that they are scheduled for a session with a tutor they are incentivised to complete the course work prior to the session which reduces drop-out rates compared to an untutored course.


3. You need to pro-actively manage the learning.


By tracking the progress of the student/delegate through the training programme you can make sure they stay on track. To achieve this, you need to have the course delivered on a professional learning platform. Many large organisations now have these available, and smaller organisations can outsource to learning platform providers.

Pro-actively managing students/delegates ensures that completion rates are maximised.

4. You need to celebrate student achievement


By recognising successful course completion you create an additional incentive to complete learning programmes – which reduces drop-out rates. Furthermore, it also incentivises others to take up good programmes.


So, blended, managed, e-learning would seem to be an excellent way forward. Embrace it to take advantage of the changing work environment to build the skills and knowledge


At Compelling Propositions we have created a blended, managed, e-learning programme in the field of Communications Effectiveness. If you are interested in this specific area of training, please take a look at our Pyramid Thinking Plus e-learning programme.


Details of all our Pyramid Thinking Plus training courses can be found at: www.compellingpropositions.com/courses

For over 15 years we have been delivering Pyramid Thinking Plus courses face to face to organisations in a wide variety of industries. Typically, we train groups of 8-12 participants in why and how to use a Pyramid Thinking Plus logic template to create truly compelling communications. These can be proposals, reports, business cases, or even important emails.


Over the last couple of years we have also been training trainers in the discipline so they can then roll it out across their organisations.


I am pleased to announce that in the second half of last year we invested a lot of time and effort in re-building the course for an e-learning platform. Whilst the theory content has not changed substantially, the work exercises have been completely re-designed to deliver maximum benefit in a self-learning situation. It is worth noting that following feedback from face to face courses we have also built in a 1-to-1 tutorial with an expert practitioner to help embed the learning and address any specific questions any individual may have.


So should you need Pyramid Thinking Plus training to enable you - or your staff to bring their stakeholders along with them more effectively you can tailor make a program to suit you - picking from face to face training, train the trainer, and now e-learning.


So if you are interested in becoming more proficient in effective communications get in touch.


Bringing your stakeholders with you will result in increased sales, more regulatory approvals, more approved business cases, and greater employee satisfaction - whichever training path you choose.

Compelling Propositions

(Pyramid Thinking Plus)

23 Seaton Close, London SW15 3TJ, UK

enquiries@compellingpropositions.com

Tel: +44 (20) 8789 3216

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