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The Four Myths of Strategy
But the problem with taking a consensus-building approach is that it requires settling for the lowest common denominator that everyone can agree with, rather than striving for solutions that challenge current thinking.
Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of England, once said: “To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects — the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead.”
Ultimately, consensus can lead to cynicism and resignation that, when difficulties in execution are encountered, manifest in a chorus of “I told you so,” “If only they had listened to me,” and “I didn’t really believe it was the right course of action.”
In reality, consensus is way too low a bar for the fulfillment of any strategic plan that requires substantial organizational change. There is, in fact, something about engaging in the process of developing the strategy itself that is fundamental to people feeling ownership over it. Input into the strategy but a lack of involvement in developing it may create compliance, but being actively involved in its generation creates commitment.
To generate this commitment, executives need to set the bar to the higher goal of alignment. Reaching this alignment requires putting people’s concerns, doubts, uncertainties and water-cooler conversations on the table so they can be dealt with out in the open. Alignment is achieved when people leave the strategy discussions fully on board with whatever decision the group has reached, with no plan B, no pocket vetoes and no reservations about fully investing themselves in pursuing the agreed-upon direction.
Myth No. 3: Exclusion Is Efficient
The typical strategic planning process is an exclusive affair. Executives often believe that the fewer people involved in the process, the easier it will be. As such, they often limit participation to a small group of business unit heads or the strategy development group.
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