Blue Ocean Chapter 8 - Embed Execution in Strategy

 This chapter is all about change management though the authors don't use the phrase explicitly. The key idea here is to closely engage the people who are going to implement the strategy and not push it top down. This topic is not specific to blue ocean strategy. It is something applicable to any change that you want to drive through an organization. But makes sense to include here because often best strategies fail at execution. One challenge writing about this topic is that you can't intellectually validate the authors' recommendations. These are aspects of internal workings of an organization and you may not really get reliable information. Everyone likes to say they run a company democratically involving all the people and all. Unless you are in there, you will never know how things were really run. Only way I can think of validating these kind of ideas is by comparing the advice on such matters given by different authors and while speculating causes when what seems like a perfect strategy has failed. 

The idea is simple. The authors talk of 3 Es. Engagement - Involve the employees as well as various stakeholders who will be impacted and can impact the change right through the strategy formulation process. This would involve taking their ideas into consideration, let them voice opposition to the proposed change. The second would be Explanation - Ensure that every one of them know why a decision was made to implement a change. Though they may not agree there is likely to accept if is clear that it has been made rationally taking into account various factors and not at the whims of certain people or to favor certain groups. And third is Expectation - This is about clear articulation of what is expected of them.

Logically these steps that supposedly make up a fair process makes sense. Also it makes sense it applies to stakeholders in various capacities including external suppliers, users of products etc. other than workers. Also logically even difficult people cooperate when they perceive the overall system is fair and transparent while even accommodative people rebel when they aren't. I have seen such failure in practice when I have tried to push through change. Though in my case, it was a problem of I myself not being only having expertise in a technique to transform work but not sufficiently convinced about the need to do it. So I was reluctant to engage as I felt powerless to accept alternative suggestions and not convinced enough to explain logically. A project I should not have been in except maybe to learn doing it this way is a sure shot set up for failure.

I wonder though about democracies We often think any change we bring the people there will be someone who protests and doesn't allow the change to happen causing us to be struck in status quo like the people who refused to leave the Titanic when it was sinking. And so decide we need authoritative leaders who bulldoze their way through and make the necessary changes. I wonder if that is not the answer but this 2E approach to fairness that is the answer. Not even sure if it has been done anywhere to check if it works. Probably things are done this way in Western countries. But we always say the people there started with a better base with ill begotten gains of colonialism, slave labor, exploitation of natural resources yielding enough wealth to bring everyone to a certain level of prosperity to act more maturely. I mean logically we can argue that prosperity does not lead to maturity. But I can't think of a conclusive way to prove or disprove any hypothesis around correlation between rational cooperative decision making and prosperity of the decision makers. 

So the bottom line is involve everyone through the process even if it is slow and messy. I guess problem occurs only when there is engagement but no explanation and expectation. Engagement does not mean consensus. But at some point a decision has to be made following a logical process and everyone needs to be made to understand the basis even if they don't agree either with the decision nor with the basis. And finally be very transparent as to what will happen to them and what they are expected to do.  


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