Strategy, Spaghetti and Lego: Together at Last!

Mind map style diagram with multiple items grouped and linked by criss-crossing arrows.

A business strategy case study

Recently I did some work with a company that had grown from a small business to a medium-large size business and found that their management structure wasn’t really keeping up.

They asked for some help refining the corporate strategy to better suit the current size and shape of their organisation.

SWOT

We started with a SWOT analysis before the first session. Each division manager was asked to prepare their idea of the business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats ahead of time. These were printed out onto individual cards and shuffled.

Right Brain Thinking

 

At the beginning of each session, we had a quick, creative activity to help activate some right-brain thinking. This included building things from Lego or playdough, some word games and some origami. An added benefit of using stuff like Lego and playdoh is that we have tactile items on the table that kinesthetic learners can engage with throughout the session. It also sets a fun and relaxed tone for the remainder of the session.

Thanks to the brilliant  Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie for the Lego inspo!

Delphi

We then used a modified Delphi technique in which each person drew a card randomly and explained the concept to the group. In doing this, we could generate some discussion around each idea and find some new ideas. Using the Delphi technique ensures that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and minimises the risk of groupthink or of one person dominating the discussion.

Sift and Sort

Several people working around a table to sort coloured index cards into groups

 

In our next session, we reviewed the revised list of SWOTs. The group then sorted these into common themes. Themes that had a large number of items were further sorted into subthemes. The different pieces were then stuck up onto the wall in their logical groups. Again, participants shuffled and moved things until they were happy with the representation.

Spaghetti

Mind map style diagram with multiple items grouped and linked by criss-crossing arrows.

 

The next step was mapping out the relationships between the different items. I asked participants to draw arrows from anything which contributed to another resulting in a mind map of arrows crisscrossing the wall. The end result looks like spaghetti!

The power of this technique is that it starts to reveal causes and underlying issues. Any item that contributes to multiple other items can be identified as a high priority or could be something we could address quickly to resolve numerous problems. Those which are driven by multiple drivers suggest a more complex issue.

Priorities

With some level of understanding of the complexity of the issues, participants were then allocated 5 stickers each which they could use to vote for the problem or opportunity they felt was most important. This generated a list of about 15 items. Six of these were quite clearly a higher priority than the others. A further four items were identified as second-tier priorities.

We now had ten clearly defined objectives that could be workshopped and solutions identified to craft an actionable and measurable strategy.

Feedback from the participants was that they found the sessions valuable. Everyone was satisfied that they had identified the correct priorities and felt confident that implementing the new strategies would positively impact the business.

I’m looking forward to checking back with the team in six months to see how they are progressing. I’m sure they will have effected some fantastic transformation!

 

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