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The Road to Nowhere

I was recently talking with a senior partner of a renowned Auckland architectural firm about the things they find in their project reviews. I have been lucky to work beside some of their team at the conceptual stage when they are thinking about the cultural impact and intentions of the design (of course the culture side is my interest)

I enjoy their approach as they like to get inside their clients heads & really understand how they think about their business. That means they are very interested in the post project review because there is nothing better than looking at the actual impact of the design and comparing it to the intended impact to help them learn for the future.

In the case of one space they had designed they found that the expected working improvements had not fully materialised because people were using the new spaces the way they had in the old building. Aside from observing that this is culture in action (that”s the way we always do things), I was interested in why this was the case. After all the space had been designed to create new thinking by providing opportunities to work differently.

Like all projects this one had a significant front end effort in creating the strategy and setting cultural and performance goals had. However there appeared to be a gap between the strategists strategising and the users using.

It occurred to me that this was not unusual whether it be the business strategy, marketing strategy or in this case a project strategy.

Strategy is meant to guide inform your people as they make decisions, yet in many organisations it doesn”t do that as much as it should. Not because the strategy is wrong or the people ignore it but because the strategy isn”t properly translated in to plans, reviewed against actual results and, certainly in the case of cultural objectives at least, communicated repetitively and regularly so that it sticks in the hearts & minds (that”s where culture lives). Without understanding your intentions people will do what they think is right and that tends to be what they already know.

It”s like buying an expensive map before a road trip across the breadth of the country and then navigating by road signs. It”s not effective & the risk is you get sidetracked down roads that take you nowhere.

Developing good strategy takes some effort; lots of leadership time, expensive collation of data & market intelligence, weeks of analyst time and a pile of charts, slides & reports. So why waste that all by not following through in the role out as thoroughly?

So is the cost & effort involved in creation of strategy replicated in the role out, the time to explain, clarify, revisit, update, measure & publicise in your business? Your division? Your team?

And do you take a leaf out of the architects book & review the actual impact of the strategy so that you can learn and improve at least & refocus at best?

Or do you start out with a great strategic intent and take the road to nowhere?

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