As leaders, we need to hone our ability to see ahead clearly, especially within a context of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Buddhist practitioners and philosophers will be the first to affirm that life is suffering. Expect volatility. Expect crisis. Expect suffering. Only through acceptance of our reality can we find clear pathways through it to peacefully seek our goals.
Over the last six years, I have been involved with a project at Teachers College, Columbia University with Professor Lyle Yorks that teaches strategic agility to education leaders in K12 and higher education contexts.
Our Strategic Agility workshop series provides a practical, project-based learning experience that supports administrators to engage in strategic thinking and strategic learning in ways that impact both organizational development and personal leadership development simultaneously.
On the individual level, participants experience personal benefits through faculty and peer coaching and reflective practice, exposure to the latest research, analysis of multiple leadership inventories, exposure to divergent points of view, and four applied projects. On the organizational level, participants work alongside colleagues to simultaneously learn, apply, and adapt strategic agility tools and strategies for common problems of practice, including: health and safety of employees and students, engagement of families and vulnerable populations during a pandemic, budget uncertainties, access to remote learning offerings, and redesigning systems and practices centered on equity and inclusion.
In our workshop series we feature a set of tools and practices “Pent” Harold Penton and Lyle Yorks used with corporate leaders in their consultant practices and were later adapted for education leaders with the experience Lyle and I brought from our work at Teachers College.
Understanding and Engaging in Strategic Learning
Based on the work of Peitersen (2002), we introduce leaders to idea that strategic learning is critical component of strategic thinking, with specific tools and practices that can be employed to generate insight. These tools and practices include scenario learning, reasoning from analogies, political mapping, outside-in divergent thinking, among others, listed below.
Strategic Agility Tools & Practices
- Ambiguity Tolerance Self-Assessment
- Essential Skills of a Strategic Mindset (Article | Card Set)
- Understanding Levels of Uncertainty
- Characteristics of Change (Individual and Organizational)
- Analogies in Leadership
- Understanding the Ladder of Inference
- Developing Innovative and Strategic Mindsets
- Writing Value Propositions
- Value Chains
- MIS – 3 Question Matrix
- Interviewing Stakeholders with Open-ended Questions (Discovering Latent Needs)
- Testing Assumptions – Alexander’s Questions & the Learning Window
- Value Curves & Defining Elements of Performance
- Finding Your Blue Ocean
- Scenario Learning
- Mapping the Political Territory
- Trust/Agreement Matrix