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The organizational problem.

The CEO was disappointed. He'd spent months with his executive team developing a new organizational strategy. He'd then spent weeks flying around the country on a road show to communicate the new strategy. He set up a number of projects to implement the strategy. Strategic objectives were put into each of his executives KPAs.

"I am tired of being the only one driving the strategy!

But now 6 months later, he felt quite frustrated. When he spoke to people who were not his direct reports, they were saying that they needed direction! They were confused by the many projects that were being implemented. As they focused on one project, they forgot about the strategy, the company values and other projects. Work was being duplicated. His people were confused. Different projects were working at cross purposes to one another. His people simply could not see how everything fitted together.

The CEO felt quite alone in driving the corporate strategy. He wished that his team would:

  • Realize that they were in it together. That they needed to work together as a united team, rather than in separate silos - often working at cross purposes to one another.
  • Take responsibility for playing a leadership role in driving the implementation of the strategy. Many of them thought that it was enough that he, the CEO had communicated the strategy and created projects. They then left it up to their people to flesh out what needed to be done to implement the strategy - without providing direction to their own teams.

The strategy implementation intervention the CEO wanted.

The CEO wanted to hold a 2 day strategy implementation workshop for his executive team and their direct reports. He wanted the workshop objective to be: "To help his team to develop a coordinated strategy implementation plan." He was quite adamant that he didn't want another theoretical talk shop. He wanted his team to develop a practical and detailed plan for implementing the strategy. One that was simple and clear. One they would take ownership of - as a team. One that would excite them. One they could use to provide direction throughout the organization. And one that he could use to measure their progress.

The thinking behind the design of the strategy implementation workshop.

I needed an intervention that would help his executive and management team to:

  • Understand why most companies strategies don't get implemented, and recognize what they needed to do as leaders, to ensure their strategies worked.
  • Help them to see their projects, their company strategy, their values, and the work each division did, in a holistic way. This would require a tool that used a combination of systems thinking and visual thinking.
  • Help them to understand the few areas they would need to focus on, in an integrated way, as a leadership team. This was -if they were to implement their strategy successfully, in a way that also encouraged their people to behave according to their values.
  • Help them to develop a detailed, comprehensive implementation strategy - which detailed
    • What specific interventions they would need to lead.
    • Who would need to play what role.
    • What barriers they may need to overcome.
    • How they would measure progress.
    • How they would sustain momentum - so their people would keep going until they achieved success.

The constraints I needed to work within.

  • The CEO wanted to achieve all of this in a 2 day workshop.
  • There would be 23 people attending the workshop.

The tools I decided to use in the two-day workshop.

1. The first tool I used was The Change Puzzle Kit

This helped the group use systems thinking to see how their projects, strategy, values, divisional objectives, KPAs, and other leadership elements, fitted together into one integrated picture of the organization. They could then determine what they needed to work on, to implement their strategy.

I had one kit for each group of 8 delegates. Each kit consists of:

The systems thinking tool I chose for this strategy implementation planning workshop was "The Change Puzzle Kit."
  • Two laminated charts. (A1 size). The first chart is called The Organization Of Today. The second chart is called The Ideal Organization Of The Future. Each chart provides both a holistic visual picture of the whole organization, plus more detailed elements within the organization.
  • A set of water soluble pens which allows the delegates to write directly onto the laminated charts. The charts can be wiped clean and used again.
  • A box of clue cards to help the groups analyse 20 organizational elements from a systems thinking perspective, as they complete their charts.

2. The second tool I used was an implementation planning tool called "Winning the Game of Change."

The tool I used to develop a strategy implementation plan was "Winning the Game of Change."

This kit, in the form of a game, helped the group to develop a detailed strategy implementation plan for the entire organization. It contains:

  • 1 laminated chart - with 8 tasks that leaders need to complete in order to develop an implementation plan.
  • A set of clue cards containing examples of best practices for completing each leadership task.

The workshop design.

This is the process I followed:

  • To get people thinking outside of their normal silos or divisions, I divided the larger group into 3 groups of 8 delegates per group. These groups were mixed so that people of different functions worked together in each group.
  • Each group had their own Change Puzzle Kit and Winning the Game of Change Kit to work with.
  • I used this diagram to explain the process we would be following which was:
    • We would take a 'systems thinking' photograph of organization as it is today - To do this we would use The Organization of Today charts and cards.
    • strategy-implementationWe would do a right brained exercise to look at what the organization would be like, if it were achieving all the benefits from having implemented its strategy successfully.
    • We would translate that right brain 'vision of the future' back into left brained, systems thinking. We would look at the elements that would need to be in place for that vision to work. To do this we would use 'The Ideal Organization Of The Future charts and cards.
    • We would then compare what came out of our two charts. From this, we would choose a few core changes. Changes that move us towards the future vision we wanted.
    • We would then use the Winning the Game of Change Kits to develop a detailed implementation plan. This included:
      • Who would need to play what role.
      • A detailed implementation plan. What would be done. How. When.
      • A training plan.
      • A way to check progress.
      • A way to identify and remove barriers.
      • A way to reinforce the behaviors we needed to implement our strategy successfully.

How I used The Change Puzzle Kit: Day 1.


Step 1. Provide an overview of the change puzzle

I provided a quick overview of the change puzzle.

Step 2. Analyse the organization of today.

2.1 Instructions:

systems-thinking-toolEach group was given the chart "The Organization Of Today" plus the 20 clue cards about the current organization. They were also given a set of water soluble pens. They were asked to write on their chart how they saw the organization as it existed today. They could use the clue cards to help them. The groups were told that they didn't need to achieve a consensus.

2.2 Activity:

Each group spent about an hour recording their answers. Then instead of having formal feedback, each group simply read what the other groups had written on their charts. This was to prevent a very tedious feedback process - and potential conflict.

2.3 What came out:

The three groups were surprised that their charts looked similar. What came out clearly was a lack of alignment in the organization. The different divisions and projects were seen to be pulling in different directions. The structures and the reward systems encouraged people to behave as they did in the past. Those who supported the organization's new strategy were 'punished' for doing so.


Step 3. Groups develop a vision of the future.

I used a creative activity from the Create fun and energy section of the Powerful Facilitation cards. I needed the groups to develop a clear vision of what their organization would look like, if they had successfully implemented their strategy, and were achieving the benefits they wanted.

As they developed their right brain picture of their organization, the groups became energized. They started feeling proud about what they could achieve together. They were amazed that they all had a similar view of the future.

What was really happening is that the hard work the CEO and his team had done in developing and communicating the strategy, was now being recognized and appreciated. The CEO was delighted.

Step 4. Groups complete The Ideal Organization of the Future charts.

4.1 Instructions and activity

roleI remixed the groups - to encourage the common focus the group wanted. I then asked the groups to complete the Ideal Organization of the Future charts. In doing so, I asked them to think about what would need to be in place for them to achieve the benefits they wanted to get out of their strategy. I encouraged them to capture the energizing ideas they'd had in their right brain exercise onto the 'Ideal organization of the future charts.' I suggested they also look at the systems thinking questions on their future clue cardsto ensure they developed an aligned view of their future organization. I also encouraged them to check that each organizational element supported every other organizational element.

4.2. What came out

One executive said. 'I finally understand this systems thinking and alignment stuff. Everything must support everything else.'

At first the groups were very creative about what their organization would look like, if they achieved the benefits of having implemented their strategy successfully. Then, as they started answering the 'systems thinking questions' and checking that every element supported every other element, they started refining their work. What came out this time, was a much more focused view of what needed to be in place for their strategy to be implemented successfully.

Step 5. The groups choose core changes.

We now needed to identify a few core changes, to provide a better focus for our implementation plan.

Once again I remixed the groups. I asked them to choose 3 changes that would:

  • Help them move towards their "The Ideal Organization Of The Future" charts.

I asked them to record these changes in a 'From' and 'To' table.

  • The 'From' would be drawn from "The Organization Of Today" charts.
  • The 'To' would come from "The Ideal Organization Of The Future" charts."

The three groups were surprised that they all came out with the same core changes. This happened because of the systems thinking provided by The Change Puzzle Kits - and because we kept mixing the groups.

We ended the first day of the workshop by asking the group what they'd achieved. What came out was that they were excited by their common focus, and by the clarity of what they needed to accomplish to successfully implement their strategy.

How I used The Winning the Game of Change Kit: Day 2.

roleThe groups were now used to working with one another and doing systems thinking. I remixed the groups and handed each group a Winning the Game of Change Kit. I explained how the kit worked, and allowed each group most of the day, to complete the game.

I didn't need to do more than answer an occasional question or encourage them to be practical and creative - as most of the guidance came from the clue cards in the game. The groups got engaged in the game quite quickly. As they played the game, they wrote their implementation strategies onto their charts.

About 2 hours before the session was due to end, I asked for a representative of each group to work with me, so that we could integrate all 3 charts into one integrated implementation plan for the whole organization. While we did this, the rest of the group had a break. We took about 45 minutes, as most of the groups came up with similar ideas. This was because of the systems thinking they had done the previous day, and because we had mixed the groups.

All I had to do then, was read the integrated plan back to the group.

The end result.

The executives and managers were amazed at what they had produced together. They were delighted at how practical and exciting their plan was. They had enjoyed working together. They asked to have more sessions like this in the future. One of them thanked the CEO for the work he'd done on developing the strategy. He was quite touched by this appreciation. The leaders left the session excited and motivated - and ready to implement their plan.

You may also like:

Tools to use to develop a change strategy.

  • change-puzzle-kitThe change puzzle kit A systems thinking and organizational development diagnostics tool. Diagnose an organization. Understand the impact of your change on every element of your organization. Identify what needs to be in place to support your change. Understand culture. Identify core changes.
  • change-strategy-toolkitWinning the game of change Develop a change management or organizational development strategy for your organization or project. Use the 64 cards to choose practical interventions for your strategy.

Tools to use to implement a change strategy.

  • magic-change-toolkitMagic change toolkit An exciting change management toolkit for change agents. Filled with recipe cards or activities to manage any change, reduce resistance and build excitement.



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