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Hello readers,

Exciting news from us this week – we are pleased to announce that Strategic Doing is hosting Practitioner Training here in St Andrews from 9:00 April 20th – 22nd 12:00.

All details and booking information on the Strategic Doing website here (limited places so get in the pot!) but just to give a quick summary of the key points, this is a two and a half day event that will centre on helping you become a Strategic Doing ‘Practitioner’ or leader (this is the equivalent of ‘Lean Facilitator’ in our speak, but more on that shortly.) There are 3 stages, stage one covers the 10 rules, stage two a simulation of the 10, and stage three planning your own strategic programme with a final Q&A (again, more on these concepts later. It is fun, realistic and focused on action.                                                 

So, on to the topic that we will tackle in this blog; what is Strategic Doing and how does it relate to Lean? Or in other words, why are we bothering to write about it here and publicise the event, I hear you all ask. Well, excellent question.

Ways of working are changing all the time and that can be bewildering for the best of us. Strategic Doing is largely predicated on this fact that the way we work has fundamentally changed in the last 50 years, to the extent that we need new tools to be able to deal with this change. One facet of this has been the transition from a ‘hierarchy’ model, in which the top transmits direction down, to a ‘network’ model, in which individuals have to come together to address a particular need or challenge until it has been fulfilled.

Challenges are said to be embedded within ‘complex adaptive systems’, resulting in them continually being shaped by multiple actors, hence they can feel like they are ‘moving targets.’ Many of these challenges also arise from the growth and decline of ‘S-curves’, which are essentially a way of understanding the rise and fall of our systems, products and ideas. Key to being able to deal with these changes is being able to effectively move from one S-Curve to the next in an orderly and collaborative fashion.

Strategic Doing has been designed to tackle these challenges and help people quickly form these effective collaborations that are the bedrock of ‘network’ working within the ‘complex adaptive systems’, whilst also building the capacity to deal with transitions between S-Curves.

Two key structures you will learn quickly in the training are an extrapolation of two key questions we all ask ourselves in our jobs, ‘where are we going?’ how will we get there?’, the ‘4 questions’ (often further extrapolated as ’10 rules’) are key here and provide the overarching structure:

  • What could we do?
  • What should we do?
  • What will we do?
  • What’s our 30/30? (Approximately 30 days from now, when precisely are we holding the meeting in which we will decide what happens in the next 30 days?)

So, what is the backstory to our involvement with Strategic Doing and what does the theory have to do with Lean? To answer the first question, we were in Alabama in early October delivering the first of our Rapid Improvement with Lean Tools Programme so our Managing Director Mark attended a Strategic Doing meeting held in the area and was amazed at the quality of the work on issues affecting local towns such as retention of youth and employment. Following the four questions and ten steps being detailed, attendees went from not knowing each other to becoming cohesive teams with clear objectives – we saw clear parallels with Lean and ways in which the two frameworks could complement each other, and things developed from there.

The similarities with Lean 

To answer the second, some of the similarities will possibly be clear already. As alluded to, for both you have the notion that in order to embed a new mindset among a team you need a leader who has been trained in the theory themselves and has been trained to impart some of the key skills, ‘Practitioner’ for Strategic Doing and ‘Facilitator’ for Lean – at the heart of which for that latter the first Fundamental of ‘Respect for People’, empowering staff to suggest and implement improvements.

The idea of needing to be able to embark and disembark from an S-Curve, be it a trend or technology, in a focused and coordinated fashion could be said to be congruous with the second of the Lean Fundamentals, Continuous Improvement, because both involve regularly assessing whether your team’s work is adding the value you want and whether improvements or changes need to be made.

To make a broader point both require people to think outside the box, which is a cliched term but encapsulates these theories well because thinking is most definitely required, because if it were easy then the workshops would not be necessary, and outside of the box because they are not necessarily conventional approaches and both treat convention with the scepticism it often deserves. Both entail a journey that go from understanding to creating and both navigate the lumpy but indispensable sea of post-it notes to map out processes and strategies, while some of the tools intersect including the Impact Ease grid.

What is the difference?

Despite the overlaps, Lean clearly has its own methodology and in contrast to Strategic Doing could be said to orientate on ensuring as much value as possible is extracted and as much waste avoided for the duration of each and every S-Curve, without necessarily being designed to equip collaborators and leaders to deal with the transitions between ‘S-Curves.’ Additionally, although here at St Andrews Lean Consulting we do have our 8-step St Andrews model of process improvement that we have established as our go-to tool for clients around the world, Lean more broadly is not codified in the same way as Strategic Doing, whose history is not as complex and intertwining as could be said of Lean, with the former’s origins laying predominantly in the endeavours of its founder Ed Morrison.

So many similarities and a few key contrasts, but both are understanding-focused and have the capacity to make our professional lives easier and more prosperous with the right guidance, which you will have in spades at the Practitioner Training in April. If you cannot wait until then, fear not. Published just last year is the excellent book ‘Strategic Doing: Ten Skills for Agile Leadership’ – link here. Additionally, you can find a related Ted talk by one of the authors of the book, Scott Hutcheson, here.

Please feel free to get in touch if you are interested in any further information on the event or the ideas we have talked about here!

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