Part Two of a two-part interview with the Authors of Optimizing Strategy for Results: A Structured Approach to Make Your Business Come Alive
By the TCL Team
For authors Dr. Timothy Waema, Ron Price, and Dr. Evans Baiya, strategy is only one part of the work they do for clients across the globe. Together, they bring decades of knowledge on strategy, leadership, and innovation into cohesive teachings—which led them to collaborate on their latest book, Optimizing Strategy for Results: A Structured Approach to Make Your Business Come Alive.
When we last talked with the authors, they had shared what it was like to write a book via Zoom from their different corners of the world and how their collaboration changed the way they think about strategy. Our interview continues as we explore the book and what it means for your future strategic planning.
Nichole MacDowell (NM): Let’s dive a little bit into the book. One of the things that I thought was really interesting was that you gave seven stages of strategic creation. How did that come to be? A lot of the other strategy books I’ve read don't have stages, and this is really wonderfully laid out.
Ron Price (RP): For years, I used five stages for strategy because I wanted to move away from strategy as a document or strategy as an event. In the initial discussions I submitted that system and, as they critiqued it, we began to see that it was really seven strategies. Some of the terminology changed.
Dr. Timothy Waema (TW): I remember Ron sharing the five stages that he had, which you would find in many places. One thing that tends to be missed is what we call the first stage, the foundation of strategy. We thought it was important enough to deserve a stage on its own. In my mind, this is the most critical stage. If you don't get that right, then it is very difficult to have a good strategy.
NM: There were a handful of other topics that you bring into strategy like axiology, emotional intelligence, and innovation. Can you each talk about bringing those additional elements in into the strategy process and why you felt like it was important to address those in this book.
Dr. Evans Baiya (EB): Why does an organization need strategy? Because strategy helps you deliver value. That value belongs to multiple stakeholders. If you just develop strategy just to focus on one stakeholder—just the customers or just the employees—then you're missing out. You need a holistic mindset. So, we had to think about the people the organization serves.
RP: People first, emotional intelligence, innovation, and axiology are all models that influence our thinking in the work that we do. We thought, why shouldn't they be a part of the way that we think about strategy? We understand that strategy is about good thinking but it's also about great energy and great execution. We felt that including those other topics into the book was a more holistic approach that has a lot more energy and lot more fun. We want this book to help people have more fun with strategy. Most people think developing strategy is like going to the dentist's office!
NM: What does it mean to have fun creating strategy? Especially for companies who have not had fun with this process, how would they use this book to have fun this time around?
RP: When you don't see a clear pathway, or you feel stuck, or you're having to do something that's beyond your grasp, all those things tend to make it not fun. However, when you can see the next step and you see good structure to take you through the process, you have more confidence. Then, if you have enough differentiated activities or exercises that are not dominated or controlled by just a few people, it really becomes much more of a collaborative experience. True collaborative experiences are always full of energy, as we experienced collaborating on the book. Fun is a natural expression of true collaborative experiences.
TW: We also made sure that every stage has specific outputs. As you progress through the book, you can see the connectedness between one stage and the other, that you did not waste time in one stage but that it was going to inform the next.
NM: How do you hope that this book will change the way that that people develop strategy within their own organizations?
TW: We have provided adequate examples and tools at every stage. In fact, several people who have read the advanced copy told me that we were too generous with resources and tools! But we wanted to create a book that was somewhat do-it-yourself. You can walk through the strategy process on your own without requiring an expert. A lot of books are written in a way that requires someone else to help you go through the process. We put all the tools there and examples from our past work to make it easier for you.
RP: There are several ways leaders can engage with the material. The first level is designed where someone could read the book and, if they have internal resources, they could take advantage of a lot of the tools to improve what they're already doing in strategy.
The second level is if the reader wanted to bring in an outside facilitator for some parts of the process, where doing so has a lot more value in it. This allows all the leaders to be active participants and not to feel that they must be facilitating it themselves. I see a lot of CEOs who feel that they need to be leading the discussion, but they are not as effective as a participant and contributor when they have to be the facilitator. There could be instances where bringing an outside facilitator increases the output dramatically.
The third level is an organization who really wants to get good at this but they know that they might let things slip if they don't keep someone involved. Then an outside facilitator comes in as a strategic partner and they stay involved year-round with the organization to make sure that they're getting the greatest advantage from all seven stages.
I hope people gain a lot more confidence and have a lot more fun. When they recognize that well-executed strategy not only creates greater results for the organization but creates wonderful opportunities for people to align their own individual sense of purpose and passion to the strategy of the organization, you get a lot more synergy because of the appreciation and the respect for both the individual as well as the organization's purpose.
Catch up on Part One of our interview with the authors here. You can buy Optimizing Strategy for Results: A Structured Approach to Make Your Business Come Alive on Amazon, follow Ron Price, Dr. Evans Baiya, and Dr. Timothy Waema on LinkedIn, and learn more about strategy at optimizingstrategyforresults.com.