This is not a Strategic Leadership textbook. This is a book of Strategic Discoveries, describing discoveries about Strategic Leadership; written by a group of 36 leaders, an instructor, peer reviewed in process and edited for clarity. Everyone participating in this process of investigation and reporting their findings are leaders from various cultural, ethnic and leadership contexts. The material provided represents case studies drawn from their investigation and research as they learn how strategic leadership principles function in teams, discoveries about their organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) and the potential strategic influence the organizations they investigate will have in the future.
These leaders are graduate students in a Strategic Leadership course, working toward completing their degree in the Masters of Arts in Leadership (https://www.twu.ca/academics/school-graduate-studies/educational-leadership-ma) or Master of Arts in Educational Leadership Program (https://www.twu.ca/academics/school-graduate-studies/educational-leadership-ma) at Trinity Western University (www.twu.ca) in Langley British Columbia Canada. Each leader is working toward personal discovery of the best Strategic Leadership practices for their personal and professional lives, organizations and careers as they focus on strategic leadership development at the graduate level. Each leader comes from different places on the strategic leadership spectrum and explores strategic leadership from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds and experiences. Some experienced educators, others health care professionals, some from various business backgrounds, others nonprofit professionals and still others come with years of Christian Ministry experience.
Some are highly experienced strategic leaders, others with little or no experience in strategic leadership practice and entering the formal study of strategic leadership for the first time. Their expressions are far from perfect, but each one is working toward a better definition of their journey into the deeper investigation of strategic leadership. Each leader is genuine in expression and willing to become better by expressing their strategic leadership development honestly and accurately. Their unique approach defines them as they plot their individual journey and discoveries; toward better practice, increased understanding, mastering strategy to enhance leadership practice, to provide positive leadership interactions with the organizations they work with and the people they lead and serve.
Personal Strategic Development Assessment
This section begins with 36 Personal Strategic Development Assessments framing each leader’s understanding of their strategic leadership journey. Their individual journeys moves from expressed uncertainty about operating in a strategic leadership environment, to proficiency and vision regarding their personal discovery of increasingly competent strategic leadership skills. This section sets the tone for their work and represents the beginning of their Strategic Discoveries journey.
The discoveries vary! Starting with a personal strategic development assessment, each contributor supplies a personal assessment of their strategic development related to life experience and individual discipline stream of study. Each assessment includes personal strategic leadership experience, while taking outlining general responses to circumstances and the stressors they face in their personal/professional lives and development of strategic leadership capabilities.
Each leader identifies their wants and needs for changing and strengthening responses to their personal circumstances and stressors as they identify personal and professional strengths and weaknesses along with their desired changes toward skills development in life practice and development as strategic leaders. Each one identifies areas requiring attention while working to develop and strengthen that area of strategic leadership practice.
The assessment explores mission, vision and values practice in strategic leadership. Where leaders don’t have experience with a personal/professional mission, vision or values statement, they develop one and explain why the developed mission, vision and values statements align with the future strategic development they desire to practice. Discovering personal and professional mission, vision and values for personal/professional strategic development is invaluable to the ongoing leadership development and collective effectiveness to help them discover their greatest potential for positive and practical strategic leadership practice.
Looking at key strategic drivers for assessing strategic leadership experience helps create significant impact toward achieving leadership potential. Determining the areas a leader needs to abandon and areas they need to excel for future development, provides a firm foundation to refocus present experiences toward future development of strategic leadership practice. Leaders who know the culture they want to develop from the mission, vision, values and the drivers they envision to align their present/future success, informs their desired and future practice, replacing uncertainty with confident strategic leadership practice.
Each leader concludes their assessment by identifying ‘old economy’ thinking and practices they continue to use and the outcome(s) they’ve experienced as a result of those ‘old economy’ habits. By changing those habits to ‘new economy’ thinking and practice they create an effective personal/professional growth strategy focusing on the anticipated outcome(s) central to creating a results based assessment for newly discovered practices and skills in their personal and professional leadership practice. (Ungerer, Ungerer & Herholdt, pp. xiii-105)
Providing a personal assessment to become a better strategic leader allows leaders to see themselves clearly and determine where present leadership practice helps them chart their future as strategic leaders. Outlining these present strategic strengths helps each leader discover how to align present strategic practice to responses and assists them in becoming better strategic leaders overall. Becoming better is a task every leader needs to take time for in developing their best habits in developing their future strategic leadership abilities and practice.
Strategic Team Review Assessment and Action Tool (STRAT)
In this section, leaders apply a Strategic Team Review and Action Tool (STRAT) outlined in Hughes, Colarelli-Beatty and Dinwoodie’s, Becoming a Strategic Leader (pp. 285-302). For this review, 9 teams from 5 different stream disciplines worked through the principles, forming ad hoc teams developed for the coursework. Some teams referred to previous team experiences from normative work environments. Overall however, the use of the STRAT tool allowed teams to understand how to develop greater team dynamics based on each team’s assessment and plans.
Sustain, Delete, Rethink and Add-Innovate
This section focuses on discovering strategic directions for real time organizations. Teams investigated the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) for various organizations. A SWOT assessment is a long standing and seminal strategic process used successfully by various organizations over many years. This exercise allows each leader to participate in an applied learning exercise to deepen their experience in strategic leadership studies.
Following an Ethics Review application and approval with the Ethics Review Board at Trinity Western University (https://www.twu.ca/research/research-services/research-ethics), teams interviewed members of existing organizations to determine the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats related to the practice and habits of each organization. Teams opting to work with public information and not interact with human subjects extrapolated information from an organization’s public material to conduct their SWOT assessment, using the information gathered from the research through an organization’s public profile. Processes used in each investigation are not included in team final reporting, since they only report findings related to the final analysis of the individual organizations reviewed.
Teams reviewed strategic choices by using either ‘brain storming’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K8W4ooygUU&list=PLSK-oAscPW29NnHjI2MviD8O9ZC04ta0v) or ‘brain swarming’ (https://hbr.org/video/3373616535001/brainswarming-because-brainstorming-doesnt-work) practices to develop information and review SWOT principles. ‘Brain storming’ or ‘brain swarming’ allowed team members to gain understanding of methodologies for working through the various levels of the SWOT process, and assist with the development of strategic responses to organizational assessments and the strategic influences guiding them into the future. This helped teams identify necessary skills to plan strategically in meeting the challenges faced while navigating best practices for the future and gaining necessary skills for developing an effective strategic leadership toolkit for themselves.
To perform a SWOT analysis, teams used Richard Lepsinger’s 6 Bridge Building Principles in Closing the Execution Gap (2010), Hughes, Beatty and Dinwoodie’s assessment tools and six step after action review (AAR) process for assessing organizational capacity for change in Becoming a Strategic Leader (2014, pp. 130-134). Teams using the tools, outlined in the texts, assessed developed strategies for the organizations to determine the anticipated success or failure of the suggested change(s) for each organization’s future practice to determine the anticipated success when applying identified changes. Teams then submitted their results and findings to determine the likely success or failure in applying the changes discovered when applying SWOT Processes to the various organizations reviewed.
The final section measures the potential future strategic influence of the organizations assessed from the previous SWOT analysis process. Teams reviewed the organizational SWOT results from the organizations investigated to evaluate the anticipated strategic influence for each organization and make suggestions regarding how to further develop the anticipated strategic influence for their organizational future. Teams used chapter 4 of Richard Hughes, Katherine Colarelli Beatty & David Dinwoodie (2014) Becoming a Strategic Leader (pp. 145-195) to prepare the assessment of present strategic influence and outline the developmental steps needed to identify and see the possible strategic influence the organization could experience in the future by staying the course for developing and changing responses to their organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
The team reviews also include a one-page newspaper style article portraying the vision and aspirations for the organizations reviewed and represents what makes the organization proud of who they are and what they can become three or four years into the future. Capturing the organizational story acts as a summary for future planning and implements the necessary steps for making their strategic influence a reality and allow an overview for anticipated success derived from the materials reviewed to chart a path toward a successful strategic influence practice. Showing pride for the organization’s present and future, conveys the kind of organization they are presently and the kind of organization they plan to become in the intervening years to see any planned strategic influence become a reality.
Teams also used Chapters 6-9 of Galbraith’s Designing Organizations: Strategy, Structure and Process at the Business Unit Levels (pp. 131-216) to identify/determine the organizational design best suited for developing the strategic influence desired. Some designs, listed by Galbraith, fit an organization’s anticipated future; some do not. Describing whether designs fit or not is important for understanding the effectiveness of future strategic planning, the realization of anticipated strategic influence and the organization’s future vision in terms of suggested or negated organizational operating design.
Leadership teams have the choice for creating a workable hybrid for their organizational design as well. They can also add suggestions for individual organizational practice, by using any available documentation about the organization gathered in their investigation. Teams can also use other materials to support their evaluations and identify the most effective development of strategic influence practices within the organization they review. They are also free to use other research materials to support their evaluation and planned directions for effectively developing an organizational strategic influence plan.
Taking steps toward strategic discovery helps each leader, in each team and exercise discover what it means to become a strategic leader and develop common, competent and confident strategic leadership practice.
Galbraith, J. (2014). Designing organizations: Strategy, structure, and process at the business unit and enterprise levels. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hughes, R. L., Beatty, K. C., & Dinwoodie, D. L. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader: Your role in your organization’s enduring success (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lepsinger, R. (2010). Closing the execution gap. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
McCaffery, T. (2014) Brainswarming: Because brainstorming doesn’t work. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/video/3373616535001/brainswarming-because-brainstorming-doesnt-work
Muzio, E. (2011) Brainstorming done right! Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K8W4ooygUU&list=PLSK-+oAscPW29NnHjI2MviD8O9ZC04ta0v
Parr and Associates. (2014). How to SWOT analysis. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVwQNOIu808
Ungerer, M., Ungerer, G., & Herholdt, J. (2016). Navigating strategic possibilities: Strategy formulation and execution practices to flourish. Randburg: KR Publishing.