Human-Centred Strategy: Helping Organisational Teams and Individuals build a shared Understanding

Where does organisational strategy come to a standstill at your work place? Commonly, it is somewhere between planning of an organisational strategy and implementation by teams and individuals. The panacea to the dearth of human centred strategy lies essentially in effective team leadership. Effective team leadership is knowing how to make choices and ensuring that those choices are actionable.

While it may sound easy, more than 60% of strategies fail to be implemented. Leaders who master the art and science of strategy gain more recognition, have happier teams and achieve more successful results. A human-centred design approach to strategy helps organisational teams and their members build a shared understanding, alignment, and conditions they need to bridge the gap between strategy and action and delivering winning results.

Defining human-centred strategy
A narrow definition of a human-centred strategy is choosing what to do and what not to do. It is a process that will help any organisation to create and take action on a strategy for its business, team or industry. Repeatable steps are followed that are both human-centred and business-focused. For example, by combining rigour and creativity, the team, individual or industry begins to both analyse the world as it is (situational) and imagine how it could be better (futuristic). For simplicity and for purposes of clarity in this article, I will use this clear definition.

Tools and mindset to design a winning strategy
To design a winning strategy and ensure that strategy is actionable for your team and organisation, there is a need to learn and understand how to identify your strategic options and apply a customer-centric strategy process to help you make winning choices. Learning and understanding how to activate those choices entails engaging stakeholders within your organisation and building the shared understanding, alignment, and conditions that teams need to deliver on strategy.

Owners and employees across any organisation make strategic choices every day, no matter where they are positioned in that organisation. This article is thus helpful to both owners and employees in ensuring that teams and individuals can move confidently and seamlessly from strategy to action.

Designing strategy
The first step towards attaining a human-centred strategy is to learn and understand how to surface the bigger challenge you face, come up with possibilities to tackle it and test it to make a strategic choice. For example, as employees return to offices based in locations away from their homes in the post-Covid-19 new norm, some are seeking more privacy and their own desks in repudiation of the trend of open office designs. In the pre-Covid era, most companies had implemented the open office design concept to support collaboration. Yet, lots of employees always abhorred the open office concept layout for reasons ranging from having nowhere to keep personal stuff, difficulty to focus because of overhearing blabbering workmates and lacking space for a sensitive conversation.
In addition to this, studies indicate that the benefits of togetherness and transparency are actually overrated. In view of these reasons, post-Covid new normal employees are craving that extra space, thus spurring revival of vintage private offices and cubicles.

Creating awareness and activation of strategy
Awareness and activation of human-centred strategy is implemented through activating strategic choices. This is done by engaging stakeholders within your organisation and building the shared understanding, alignment and conditions that teams need to move confidently from strategy to action.

I believe most employers and employees would benefit from taking a holistic understanding of how to apply the three design thinking principles of desirability, viability and feasibility to strategy. This is most applicable for individuals, teams and industries focused on translating strategy into new products and offers (ideating, co-creating and testing new ideas in the market).

A human-centred strategy is for individuals, teams and industries that are focused on operationalising, producing and delivering superior products and offers. This applies overall to all types of organisations, including non-profit making, schools, governments, start-ups, small businesses and large corporations.

Though some of the frameworks and thinking I explained in my arguments in this article are rooted in business, they may still be highly applicable to anyone who wants to drive innovative initiatives at work and grow ideas, confidence and influence in their organisation.

I believe tailor-made case studies and bespoke solutions can be created to help different individuals see themselves and their organisations in the work spaces as follows:

  • Identifying a strategic problem that your organisation faces, framing it as a question and brainstorming possibilities to solve it.
  • Surfacing and picking the conditions that would need to be true to make the possibility a winning strategy.
  • Building and conducting different types of tests to help you choose among your possibilities.
  • Setting your team up to be able to take action on the strategic choices you make.

*O’Brian M’Kali (PhD, MBA, MSc, M.Ed.) is an expert in enterprise development, innovation, SMME development, policy development, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation and turnaround strategy. He lectures at Botho University. He has lent his expertise to many other organisations highlighting the essential role that strategy plays in organisational growth. He can be contacted on 71860308 (WhatsApp).