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Purdue Center for
Regional Development

Strategic Doing as a “Strategy Protocol”

Posted by Ed Morrison on June 09, 2014, in Strategic Doing.

Okay. Granted. We might have to stretch our minds a bit to to see it.

Last week, Dale Wunderlich of Kansas State suggested that we consider using the term, “protocol”, when we describe Strategic Doing. Dale’s comment came in the context of a conversation about how we roll Strategic Doing out across the state of Kansas.

Moving from “plans” to “agile (think and do) planning platforms”

We started our conversation from the proposition that we need to move our mindsets from developing “plans” to developing flexible and lean “planning platforms.” Think of them as a new form of “civic infrastructure.”

Reflect for a moment on the challenge. Federal agencies that are pouring money into Kansas. These agencies—Economic Development Administration, Department of Agricultural Rural Development, Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Administration, Department of Labor—require plans to guide their investment.

Yet, all this planning takes place in stovepipe federal organizations that direct money to equally “stovepiped” community, regional and statewide agencies. Each of these agencies is trying to confront a big, messy challenge in a region of open networks where no one can tell anyone else what to do.

Imagine that we could design and build a regional “think and do” platform that would enable different local and regional entities to come together and harmonize these plans within their region. They could quickly customize collaborations to meet their needs. They could eliminate duplication and increase the productivity of federal investments. They could develop the trusted relationships across organizational and political boundaries that power innovation and generate resilience.

What would a regional planning platform look like?

We imagined that a regional platform would provide the assets that regional leaders could access quickly to develop their various regional strategies. More important, by following the discipline of Strategic Doing, they could quickly align these strategies and build the trusted networks needed to power them. This notion of a pull platform was developed a couple of years ago by John Hagel.

Strategic Doing: Strategy as simple rules

In the design and development of Strategic Doing, we have emphasized the importance of following some simple rules to confront the complexity of open networks. Kathleen Eisenhardt and Donald Sull developed the idea of strategy as simple rules in their Harvard Business Review article.

By following these simple rules, complex strategies and innovating networks emerge. Taken together, this bundle of simple rules—which we have called Strategic Doing—represents a protocol, a set of rules to follow.

Over the years, we have seen how these simple rules can move a loosely connected network of people to link, leverage and align their assets and develop remarkably sophisticated strategies quickly.  We’ve seen it work to:

We’ve shown that Strategic Doing is a discipline that it transformative. It is scalable, replicable and sustainable with little (or no) outside investment. Here’s some testimonials that practitioners have shared.

Mastery of these simple rules takes practice, but given the remarkable collaborations we’ve launched, it’s about time to elevate Strategic Doing into a strategy protocol for open, loosely connected networks.

Strategic Doing handles big, messy challenges like the NASA shuttle shutdown