Eating our own dog food (1/n): Our outside-in strategy review (OI-SR)

Update: This has become a series:

  1. Eating our own dog food (1/n) Our outside-in strategy review (this post)
  2. Eating our own dog food (2/n): The strategy review’s assumptions 
  3. Eating our own dog food (3/n): Harvesting

Last Thursday we held the first of two partner meetings over Zoom, the second happening this coming Thursday. The overall plan: a discovery session (facilitated last week by Kert Peterson) and a second session that’s more about ideas for the coming months.

At last week’s session I wondered out loud what it would be like if the Agendashift partner network was making a point of eating its own dog food (so to speak), in the powerful sense that it models a lot of what it’s like to be a wholehearted and deliberately adaptive organisation, its work happening in self-organising, self-governing circles, reviewing its strategy outside in, conducting outside-in service delivery reviews, and so on.

I suggested that we were months away, but why wait? Why not make this coming session an outside-in strategy review? Why not indeed!

So… with more here than probably we’ll have time for, an outline. It’s pretty much the standard questions as per the template and our workshop materials, contextualised just a bit. Not shown here, by Thursday I will line up some breakout exercises to support each of the 5 layers and their corresponding questions.

1. Customer: What’s happening when we’re reaching2 the right customers1, meeting their strategic needs3?

1Who are those “right customers”?

2What does “reaching” mean for us here?

3To those “strategic needs” (their needs, our strategy – the needs that help define our mission): What are they, and how will we know that we’re meeting them? When we’re meeting them, what new stories could they tell? What is their struggle? How do we help them make progress? [1] 

A bit of a steer: The “right customers” question can be surprisingly tricky sometimes, and it certainly is for us here. Who are they? Client organisations? Their staff? Members of the partner network? Current? Prospective? Yes, all of those and perhaps more!

2. Organisation: When we’re meeting those strategic needs, what kind of organisation are we?

This one is effectively answered by this review’s context (see my preamble above), so we’ll dig down a bit. Let’s turn that “What kind of…?” question into something that’s more like a “What’s happening…?” question:

  • With that customer part happening as we’d wish, identify what activities must be happening on our side

And then:

  • What set of circles would best be responsible for those activities? (Give names to them)

For the purposes of this exercise, a circle is defined only loosely, as a self-governing group of people responsible for a domain, business, technical, functional, geographical, or whatever. For stronger definitions, see Right to Left [2], We the People [3], and the Wikipedia page for Sociocracy [4]. Right to Left remains by the way the best source for our outside-in strategy review (OR-SR); the forthcoming Agendashift 2nd edition [5] covers it too but not in the same depth.

3. Product: Through what product and services are we meeting those strategic needs?

An opportunity both to mention some things that are in the pipeline (to be announced here at the appropriate time) and to ask if we’re missing anything important.

4. Platform: When we’re that kind of organisation, meeting those strategic needs, delivering those products and services, what are the defining/critical capabilities that make it all possible?

In support of all we have discussed so far, what are we currently lacking in terms of infrastructure (technical or otherwise), intellectual property, and so on?

5. Team(s): When we’re achieving all of the above, what kind(s) of team(s) are we?

Time for another strong steer. What if part of being a wholehearted and (especially) deliberately adaptive organisation was developmental [6] at the level of individual partners and prospective partners? More widely? How do we:

  1. Help each other grow where each of us currently is?
  2. Help each other identify and grow into new opportunities?
  3. Help each other step far enough back to look with some objectivity at our relationship with the system as it is and could be?

In other words, development that’s simultaneously personal, collaborative, and systemic. Can we organise ourselves to encourage this? I think we can.

I don’t know that we’ll get through all of that – certainly not the Ideal, Obstacles, Outcomes (IdOO) bit – but it will be fun to try! And if this kind of strategy review could work for you, do get in touch.

[1] “What is their struggle? How do we help them make progress?”: This new wording is inspired by connections I’m seeing connections between our outside-in strategy review (OI-SR) and Jobs to Be Done (JTBD). See Demand-side Sales 101: Stop selling and help your customers make progress, Bob Moesta (2020, Lioncrest Publishing)
[2] Right to Left: The digital leader’s guide to Lean and Agile by yours truly (2019, audiobook 2020)
[3] We the people: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy, John Jr. Buck & Sharon Villenes ( Press, second edition, 2019)
[5] Agendashift: Outcome-oriented change and continuous transformation (2nd edition due March 2021)
[6] An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey (Harvard Business Review, 2016)

Next: Eating our own dog food (2/n): The strategy review’s assumptions


Tomorrow’s workshop below is nearly sold out but I’ve added another for early May. Keeping April free for book-related stuff!

All the usual discounts apply: repeat visits (not uncommon), partners, gov, edu, non-profit, country, un- or under-employment, bulk orders. If you think that one might apply to you, do please ask. Many of those considerations apply to private workshops also.

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