Finding the right words to convey rigor and passion about a theme and putting thoughts into paper can be difficult and frightening. Words have to align with ideas, make us feel safe to share our thoughts, and ideally, resonate with the reader/listener. This post is about that.
The Real-Time Strategy concept is about intentional (real-time) decision-making when the unforeseen happens. We call it a ‘learned strategy’; it emerges from the pattern of decisions we make/play to move towards our aspirations and learn how to act in real-time.
Understanding the system and the small changes within unlocks this learning thru heading into our identity and landscape(AT1-5) and learning from practice and exploration (AT6). That is, learning from practicing how we make decisions in our system and finding the patterns that emerge from those decisions. This pattern leads to the extraction of Simple Guiding Principles (AT7) as the decision-making tool.
If, after a full process of practice, of seeing ahead and behind, building and playing, we can say participants learn a more ‘intuitive’ and committed way to make real-time decisions in their complex adaptative system, why are we articulating SGPs? Or select them? Isn’t the building and sharing process enough?
This writing is not questioning extracting and building the SGPs. That is related to the 4C’s: connecting what guided us into a clear pattern, constructing it, making sense of the new learning, contemplating it to see it and understand it, and finally continuing and using them. This post is about the specific activity of writing them after building and sharing.
Most strategic processes will end in the documentation that people can go back to if needed (but rarely do). However, if we trust the LSP process, we know that individuals gain new, more robust knowledge thru building, sharing, and reflecting. We know that individuals should not need to go back; they now know. Facilitating the process will unlock the full commitment of the solution so, why then? Participants do not end up articulating their identity; they could, but what do we believe to be good? Perhaps we can record a video of the story, and most facilitators have their styles of documenting and clients their requirements. Nevertheless, if we want to be super orthodoxical with LSP as an enhancing learning process, why articulate?
After some reflection and contemplation, it feels there are a couple of answers.
1) Creating a sense of alignment within the team.
By selecting the 5-7 that helps us the best, the SGPs turn from individual models to collective strategies. Now the team knows this is not his or her SGPs, but rather ‘ours’. This creates a collective process where the group decides together. Articulating them gives the group a shared language too. Ultimately, after a strategy workshop, we want alignment.
It also feels that 5 to 7 is a good number, enough to be useful and easy to remember.
2) A layer of contemplation.
Committing to paper gives the participant an extra level of contemplation to see his/her words and finding the right ones, allowing them to form new patterns of thinking after unlocking the knowledge. People are not used to thinking in this SGP’s manner, so the wording pulls the brain into the “right” direction, similarly like when we articulate Team Life in the RTS for the Team workshop.
Organizations like mission and vision statements to hang on the wall. Furthermore, they like to articulate strategies to help measure success, but especially to feel safe. Leaders, sponsors, and individuals would sometimes struggle to see strategy as the “invisible” layer in the learning process that helps individuals live the strategy; they want some document that shows their outcomes and ideas and proves where they spend their money. So the articulation gives a tangible deliverable to the client and participants that will make them feel happy, secure, and safe.
Bonus Track: Preparation and Inspiration
SGPs help individuals, teams, and organizations make decisions with intent in real-time; they should be deeply rooted in their identity and landscape and now be part of their new knowledge. That is the core; the ethos, pathos, and logos of its existence.
However, who are we to neglect its possibilities to our clients? Perhaps the client finds some use to inspire ideas in their meetings or prepare them for a predictable but complex new project. By articulating them, they have something to go back to and avoid reframing them in future discussions.
To add, I have noticed that with time, as environments, companies, and people change, SGPs start losing their first intentional purpose and tend to evolve into ‘cultural statements.’ Another nice reason to have them in written form and show the world.
These in-depth philosophical discussions could potentially lead to a trap, the idea that extracting and building the AT7 would be enough. After articulating and contemplating my thoughts, the conclusion is: IT IS NOT.
In a forthcoming post, I will explore a hypothesis rooted in language, thought, and decision-making that could or could not help participants be even more intentional and committed to this SGPs articulation. I hope this feeds your curiosity and opens the door to reflecting and understanding the strategic tool that RTS offers.
Until then…Keep playing and TRUST THE PROCESS.