The case studies contained in this book are developed from the Strategic Discovery experiences of 36 graduate students enrolled in five different discipline streams from the Master of Arts in Leadership and the Master of Arts in Educational Leadership Program at Trinity Western University (https://www.twu.ca/academics/school-graduate-studies-leadership/leadership-ma).
As you followed their journey, you noticed the transparency expressed by each leader contributing to this resource. Some state their names and experiences openly, others anonymously. Regardless of disclosure, the experiences they share and the challenges faced are common for developing strategic leadership. Uncertainty to confidence to proficiency; all part of the journey.
This is not a Strategic Leadership textbook. This is a book about Strategic Discoveries. The content describes the experiences of leaders documenting their discoveries about Strategic Leadership. These leaders used personal assessment, followed clearly outlined processes and investigated organizational structures and strategic potential from many organizational contexts, by leaders from equally diverse leadership contexts. The case studies represented reveal leaders learning who they are, understanding how strategic leadership principles function, what to look for in identifying the various building blocks and perils related to organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT), along with how potential strategic influence forms intended futures and how successful they can be, if they follow through with the plans and functions anticipated.
For Personal Strategic Development Assessment, each leader identified changing responses to personal circumstances and stressors in their development as strategic leaders and understanding the importance for practicing the principles outlined in organizational mission, vision and values statements to develop effective strategic leadership practice (personal, corporate or investigated). Corporate results and outcomes are tied intrinsically to the successful practice of what a person, organization or corporate mission, vision and values practices. It is central to who they say they are, what they say they want to become and maintaining their focus for maintain future momentum. Discovering personal and professional mission, vision and values is invaluable to ongoing leadership development and the collective effectiveness for progressive leaders discovering their greatest potential in strategic leadership practice.
Leaders knowing the culture they want to develop from the mission, vision, values and the drivers they envision, informs their desired future practice, replacing uncertainty with confident strategic leadership. This is evidenced by identifying ‘old economy’ thinking and practice used in present leadership engagements and their resulting experiences. Personally assessing leadership practice allowed these leaders to determine where they are presently, as leaders, and how they can chart the future to become the most effective strategic leaders possible.
The Strategic Team Review Assessment and Action Tool (STRAT) allowed leaders to work through principles using ad hoc teams developed for the course. This tool allowed teams to understand how to develop better team dynamics, assess strategic team capabilities, survey team dynamics and determine the collective strengths/weaknesses of collective experiences within a strategic team. Though ad hoc, the team assessment conducted was a valuable exercise.
Each team produced team names, responded to questions regarding the present ad hoc team or the strategic leadership team/organization they work with regularly, scored results to allow the team to make sense of those results and create a report of average team ratings. Each team had different experiences based on their stream discipline, team make up and the application of information gathered for applying the STRAT assessment. Regardless of team dynamics however, each team discovered different and important things for their function as leadership teams. Some found the assessment and next steps productive in clarifying areas of strength and focused on improving. Another team discovered that creating a shared understanding of direction and a unified vision for the future enabled them to learn and recognize organizational leadership strengths and weaknesses. Another team found the STRAT helpful for identifying team areas of strength and weakness, growth and goals.
Each team had favourable responses to the assessment. One team saw the STRAT help identify strengths in cooperating versus competing, having clear responsibilities to contribute to one or more strategic drivers, demonstrate clarity in basic purpose and core values, and welcoming different opinions. Other observations of the application included a developed understanding of the struggle teams have in developing individual and joint capabilities involving trade-offs between the needs of today versus the needs of tomorrow. Some were unsure about what to do and not do; contributing to a lack of balance with short and long-term needs. Another team discovered their commitment for creating impact and added value through social justice initiatives with the ultimate goal to changing lives in different segments of marginalized populations. Definitely a plus discovery.
In the third section, leaders experienced a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) process for analyzing internal strengths and weaknesses along with external opportunities available and external threats the organization faces. The 9 teams (2 each from education, health care, business and non profit and 1 from Christian Ministry) gathered information through either direct organizational interviews or public domain information about the organizations investigated.
Each team conducted interviews, for investigating SWOT principles affecting the organizations reviewed. Teams also took time to understand strategic choices related to the SWOT process and the strategic influences guiding each organization into the future, with each team discovering unique applications of materials distinguishing each organizational review from others. Educational leaders found strong internal weaknesses outweighed strengths for one school, resulting in a school closure. Other educational leaders identified opportunities available for the present leadership to analyze school strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and gather useful information to provide significant impact on the school’s future success in Paraguay.
Health Care leaders discovered several positives for organizational futures in both organizations as a result of the SWOT analysis conducted. One team provides a useful four point action plan for improving future organizational performance to create an excellent work environment. The other leaders observed the SWOT principles would benefit greatly by improving staff management, budgeting, planning strategies, brand awareness, and developing a stronger customer-centric organizational focus. Both suggestions, created unique suggestions for each organization to follow.
Business leaders found differing results in their SWOT analysis. One team was uncertain, about how suggested changes would be adopted. Another outlined strong suggestions for implementing action toward results and recognized limitations for realizing results fully. Both determine best results require full engagement by the organizations reviewed.
Nonprofit leaders made equally diverse discoveries consulting nonprofit organizations to review strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. One team found SWOT provided useful information to close gaps within the organization and improve services to the people served in the community, increase employee satisfaction and improve the overall sustainability of organization members and partners. While the other team reviewed a unique nonprofit normally associated with for profit organizations. Their review was probably the most sobering of all; suggesting the need to recognize that leaving threats unresolved might hinder the organization’s progress to the point it may never move past the ‘ideas’ stage of organizational development and success.
Christian Ministry review of a local church in British Columbia Canada determined the church is ready to increase their influence with people in the congregation and the surrounding community. Their observations focused on a seven point plan for the church to follow and identified two pressing issues for the church to follow for developing and creating important directions for the congregation and church location.
The final section assesses potential strategic influence. Teams summarize future planning and implementation steps for making planned strategic influence a reality.
Education teams focused on schools for their assessment of strategic influence. The first team looks forward to an optimistic future for the school reviewed, with some observations becoming possibilities as the former school looks to become a future school, with the opportunity to utilize suggestions in the reboot of the organization. The second team of educational leaders also saw a positive future ahead for the school reviewed as well. The challenges of being located in Paraguay and unfamiliar with some of the leadership principles reviewed, still saw the transformation anticipated for the educational landscape of the school over time can increase by applying strategic influence through the practice of transformational servant leadership principles, assisting the school to build up and retain the right staff members, provide high quality education and exert influence in the community and pay off as the school experiences the positive future expected.
The Health Care teams made strong recommendation for the future of their Health Organization reviews as well. The first team suggested working on effective services to the community and expanding to other provinces while focusing on staff development and engagement. If the organization embraced these changes the future is bright. The second health care team observed the need to have processes and structures in place to develop relationships and influence employees and partners. They also believe, current development requires an understanding of leadership, organizational culture, collective beliefs and experience for producing the outcomes for direction, alignment, and commitments for the future. Both teams see strategic influence as an ongoing process of review and development to see plans become reality. The teams see the future of the health care organizations reviewed as successful as they capitalize on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats with relation to the strategic influence they exert and positive response to the suggestions made.
Business teams evaluated organizations at a more functional level. The first team was comprehensive in their suggestions, identifying the need for executive team members to address issues hindering organizational morale. They also suggest changes to assist expansion of their customer base through strategic marketing campaigns and referral programs. Though the recommendations require a slight shift in organizational design, with an anticipated move to a matrix model for increasing collaborative efforts, the move is anticipated to improve the organization’s internal strategic influence. The second team had a simpler focus, understanding strategic change can yield negative results in the beginning, but over time positive results will begin to show and the company will eventually reach all its goals and beyond.
Nonprofit teams, dealing with largely voluntary organizations, feel positive about their organizational review for strategic influence overall. The first team believes the organization reviewed has the competencies, skills and level of coordination to undertake the strategies they propose using a focused cross-functional network design for the organization. The second team sees future strategic influence lying in the enthusiasm and commitment of its long term shareholders and investors. Either way, each team see successful and positive strategic influence for their future.
The Christian ministry team, suggests the potential of the church is best prepared for strategic influence by its existence as a movement to impact people with the message of Jesus Christ. They see active leveraging for strategic influence centred in their work with young adults, with a well positioned growth impact toward children and families. The team also saw utilizing a flattened organizational structure to help the church respond to upcoming challenges with quick decision-making abilities for increasing influence within the community. Overall, the church has a positive outlook for developing future strategic influence.
Taking these steps toward strategic discovery helped each team, in each exercise discover what it means to become better strategic leaders and develop practices common to competent and confident strategic leadership practice. They started uncertain, but ended as consultants of record to recommend action related to the SWOT analysis conducted and the assessment of the anticipated strategic influence of each organization for the future.
The strategic discoveries outlined, are new opportunities for each leader to add to their strategic leadership tool kit and learn who they are, how they can become better strategic leaders overall and prepare an organization for a preferred future of strategic influence. The process outlined took these leaders 10 weeks from uncertainty to confident consultation. Each one discovering their potential in the process of discovering the potential within them and others. They started their Strategic Discoveries unsure of their ability to succeed as strategic leaders, but ended the process, expressed confidence for the organizations and themselves toward strategic success.
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