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Identifying Stakeholder Representatives For Interactive Planning

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the problems with attempting to include the input of all organizational stakeholders in planning and decision making relates to the shear size of the population, and the associated difficulty in reaching consensus on any given point or issue.  This challenge is particularly acute when Interactive Planning is undertaken because of its continuous planning ethos and its organization-wide relevance. This Blog demonstrates how legitimate stakeholder representatives may be identified and how, through these “opinion leaders”, stakeholder views may be presented and addressed. In addition, these representatives in turn help their constituents to understand and commit to plans developed through Interactive Planning e.g. for Triple Bottom Line (tbl) Sustainability.

Across an organization’s social fabric, individuals learn to trust each other and form groups capable of sense making and knowledge sharing. It’s not just ‘What you know’ (Human Capital) or even ‘Who you know’ (Relationship Capital) that ensures this inter-connectivity, it’s ‘Who you know well enough to trust for advice, or have confidence in to get things done efficiently and effectively’ (Social Capital).

Although there is no uniformly accepted definition of Social Capital (SC), its meaning in an organizational setting can be defined as “The resources, tangible or virtual, that accrue to a corporate player through the player’s social relationships, facilitating the attainment of goals.” Each individual’s relationships with other individuals in an organization form that individual’s SC for better or worse; close relationships enhance SC, whereas distrust and lack of openness cause low SC (sometimes termed Social Liability).

Some individuals in groups and communities achieve particularly elevated prestige or influence with their peers. They form core groups and their names come up time and again in their peers’ hearts and minds and stories, not so much because they have authority but rather because they have attained legitimacy. Individuals demonstrating such characteristics have accumulated considerable SC and are termed here “Opinion Leaders”. In a sense they assume archetypical characteristics within an organization through emergent stories and myths, or attain their status by matching existing ‘trust norms’. Opinion leaders are highly trusted as advisors by their colleagues for a variety of complex and often systemic reasons, e.g. personal attributes, expertise, knowledge, longevity, local deployment, power etc. They are frequently seen as removing risk from organizational situations by providing a positive evaluation of “local fit”.

Such influential individuals typically gain elevated SC by having well-developed meta-abilities such as excellent cognitive skills, self-knowledge, emotional resilience, and personal drive. The development of meta-abilities results in improved interpersonal influencing skills. This contributes to these individuals being more astute and insightful, able to make better judgments, and identify more alternative actions. This means that they can better navigate the typical complex and dynamic organizational reality and influence effectively within it. Opinion leaders usually have greater exposure to mass media, are more cosmopolitan, have more change agent contacts, have a higher socioeconomic status, participate more in their social system than their followers, and are especially important for interpersonal networks whose members differ in many aspects.

If an organization has identified its opinion leaders, these individuals may legitimately represent their constituent stakeholders regarding the stakeholders’ views, and contribute to Interactive Planning in their behalf. As noted above the opinion leaders have themselves personal characteristics that make them particularly well qualified to participate in planning activities.

Theory and means relevant to the identification of opinion leaders based on using Network Visualization Analysis (NVA) have been presented elsewhere. The identification method is very cost-effective and is highly recommended to represent appropriately the various stakeholders across an organization.

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Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Sustainability Via Interactive Planning

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

In a previous Blog, it was noted that organizations critically need new ways of thinking and organizing if they are to do more with less, and ensure ongoing growth and renewal in today’s business “Perfect Storm” – A Perfect Storm is the term that describes the situation some organizations and programs are experiencing today. This situation is a product of an exceptionally new and rare combination of unforeseen circumstances. Circumstances that produce severe business turbulence that drastically aggravate an already perilous situation. Sound familiar?.

How successful your organization becomes at acquiring and retaining a leading position in your niche marketplace in this Perfect Storm depends critically on how you position your business relative to other businesses. In that Blog, why the concept of gaining Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) over “competitors” was outmoded was also discussed, as well as why it has been replaced by Organizational Sustainable Advantage™ (OSA™). In OSA™, strategy and implementation are based on the win-win collaboration of all parties, and on plans that are ethical, and without negative impact on relevant ecological, sociological or environmental systems (Triple Bottom Line Sustainability).

Genuine OSA™ demands a decentralized organization founded on independency and interdependency of all major components of organizational processes. Stakeholders at all levels must be epi-central to the co-evolution and co-maintenance of strategy, structure, processes, and rewards. This human-centric style organization will include stakeholders in most of the organization’s responsibilities and decision-making, ensuring incremental investment by each member in the rigors and rewards of a profitable company.

To deal with the overwhelming complexity that an organization faces when it begins to navigate the transition from SCA to triple bottom line OSA™, The Leadership Alliance Inc. [TLAINC] recommends a design process that utilizes the stakeholder-centric Interactive Planning Methodology first introduced by Dr. Russell Ackoff (1981; 1999; 2006); this planning methodology  addresses planning on any scale from local to global.  Interactive Planning is highly relevant to successful design of an organization seeking OSA™ since, as mentioned above, the organizational climate will be characterized by the need for inclusion and alignment of all stakeholders in the planning process in conditions of increasing rate of change, complexity, and uncertainty – conditions that make it very hard to plan for the future using typical non-idealized planning methodologies.

Interactive Planning Methodology is guided by three operating principles:

  1. The participative principle which implies that no one can plan effectively for someone else. Professional planners and planning units should provide whatever motivation, information, knowledge, understanding, wisdom and imagination required by others to plan effectively for themselves.  Indeed, participating in interactive planning promotes the development of the members of an organization. Development, as opposed to growth, is defined by an increase in competency and one’s desire and ability to satisfy one’s own desires and those of others. Interactive Planning enables members to acquire an understanding of the organization, making it possible for them to serve organizational ends more effectively.
  2. The principle of continuity which is important because plans, no matter how carefully prepared, need to be continuously reviewed and, if necessary, modified as there are events that cannot be foreseen, especially in conditions of complexity. Changes in facts also alter the value we place on such plans. Interactive Planning is a system that allows continuous monitoring, evaluation, and modification of plans.
  3. The holistic principle that illustrates the importance of planning simultaneously and interdependently across all levels of the organization and all parts of a system. This principle has two parts, coordination and integration, each focusing on a different dimension of the organization. The principle of coordination implies that all units at the same level should be planned for simultaneously and interdependently. A threat or an opportunity that appears in one unit may best be treated in another unit or in several units simultaneously. For example, a marketing problem may best be solved by a change in production or sales or vice versa. The principle of integration asserts that planning done independently at any level of a system cannot be as effective as planning carried out interdependently at all levels. Conflicts between and within levels of organization can be avoided if planning is done in a coordinated and integrated fashion, as everyone is aware of the effects of what one level or unit does on other levels or units.

Interactive Planners believe that the future can be created and is dependent upon what one does between now and then. In planning, it is not the plan, but the process and the associated learning that are the most important products. Interactive Planning participants first dissolve a problem by changing the nature of either the entity that has it, or altering the environment in order to eliminate the problem entirely. They idealize by designing a desirable future and inventing ways to bring it about. The methodology aims for the participants to collaboratively and collectively design an ideal-seeking system based on the fundamental premise that the “system (with the problem) was destroyed last night.” The purpose of this is to free the participants from the trap of just improving the limitations of the current system – clearly a demoralizing proposition when transiting from SCA to OSA™. Rather, they are encouraged to be as creative as possible in coming up with out-of-the-box ideas that lead to innovation. The only constraints are that the new idealized system should be technologically feasible, operationally viable, and have the capacity to learn and adapt quickly.

If you are serious about having your organization achieve Triple Bottom Line Sustainability by navigating the transition from SCA to triple bottom line OSA™, TLAINC is the consultancy to help you make it a reality – why not give us a call?

References:

  • Russell L. Ackoff, Jason Magidson, and Herbert J. Addison. Idealized Design: How to Dissolve Tomorrow’s Crisis…Today, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing, 2006
  • Ackoff, R.L. Re-creating the corporation – A design of organizations for the 21st century. New York, NY: oxford university press, 1999.
  • Ackoff, R.L. Creating the corporate future – plan or be planned for. New York, NY: John  Wiley & sons, 1981