As you reflect on your organization’s 2017 accomplishments and plan for 2018, it is important to look at your strategy, and validate its underlying assumptions. Did you make the progress that you expected in 2017? What factors affected your ability, either positively or negatively, to move ahead? These are logical questions to assess past performance, and adjust your future direction.
A different set of questions that need to be asked prior to the strategic discussion, should be “generative in nature”. According to “Generative Thinking to Improve Strategy” by Peter Dean, this approach fortifies the presence and purpose of the company’s governance, and prompts leaders to ask the questions that come before the fiduciary and strategic ones.
This approach supports a systematic problem-solving methodology:
- Have you accurately defined the problem that you are trying to solve?
- What are all the possible solutions?
- Have you looked at this issue from all angles?
- What is the best solution given your situation?
Generative thinking is not a new concept, but it can sharpen the board’s and management’s view of the company’s future direction.
Generative Thinking In Action
Honda Corporation’s initial product offering was piston rings for motorcycle engines. This resulted in Honda manufacturing motorcycles for sale only in Japan. To grow, the company had to ask itself: “what business are we really in?” The answer was “we make engines”. That realization was pivotal for the organization, as they expanded to build cars, generators, lawn mowers, and additional products all having engines designed and built by Honda.
Questions To Consider
What is your organization’s core competency that can transform your business for the future?
Do you have the right individuals on your board of directors, in the CEO chair and on the leadership team?
Here are a series of questions that you might consider asking to accurately assess those capabilities:
- What business are we really in, and what business should we be in?
- What is the deeper purpose of what we are doing?
- What opportunities do we envision for the company?
- Do we have the right people in leadership positions for when the company doubles in size?
- What series of events could set in motion today that would positively affect the company for the next 10 years?
A generative question that not-for-profit organizations ask is “If we ceased to exist tomorrow, what would the impact be in the community?” How would you answer that for your organization? Let me know the impact today and into the future your organization has on your extended community and stakeholders.