In The Lego Movie, the original movie released in 2014, the antagonist character Lord Business (played by Will Ferrell), used “Krazy Glue” to keep his LEGO creations assembled precisely as the instructions indicated. The LEGO characters, seeing a partly rolled up tube of this sticky substance, could only see letters “KRA” and “GL”. They referred this as “the Kragle”. In the movie this represented the worst possible outcome for any LEGO civilization, being permanently frozen in one position, unable to be changed into something new.
Too often, businesses “Kragle” themselves by enacting strict policies that are nearly impossible to change. They become set in their ways, unable to adapt to market changes, technological innovation, or even changing economic forces.
Extracting Simple Guiding Principals
One of the techniques used in the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method, Real Time Strategy for the Enterprise, is aimed at extracting Simple Guiding Principals, core principles that allow an organization to make informed decisions, without being limited by a “strategic plan” that offers no real strategy for execution.
The Soccer Throw-in Plan vs Strategy Metophor
The best analogy that I heard to demonstrate the difference between a plan, and a strategy is that a plan is a step by step, pre-determined process that needs to happen exactly as written, or will fail; whereas, a strategy is a set of specific conditions that are able to impact one another, to arrive at a positive outcome. As a soccer player and coach, I related instantly to this metaphor:
Blue Team’s Plan to Score a Goal After a Throw In
- Luke (fullback) throws the ball to Sam (midfielder).
- Sam passes the ball to Paul (forward).
- Paul dribbles the ball towards the goal and shoots on the goal.
This is a plan. It is fixed, and if anything unexpected happens, there is no room for changing the plan mid-way. The plan is the plan. If it fails, then the plan fails.
Red Team’s Strategy to Score a Goal After a Throw In
- Rick (fullback) throws the ball to Oscar (midfielder), then takes position near Oscar and prepares to recover the ball if Oscar looses it.
- Oscar dribbles the ball forward towards open space, as nearby players attempt to find an open space, away from the blue team defenders. Oscar passes to either, Charlie (forward), Kurt (forward) or Steve (forward), depending on who is able to find open space. Oscar takes position near that player in case they loose the ball, or need to pass to avoid trouble.
- Charlie finds open space and receives the pass from Oscar. Charlie dribbles the ball closer to the goal, while
- Kurt and Steve continue to occupy open space, moving closer to the goal if possible, and prepare to receive a pass from Charlie if needed.
- Steve advances on the goal in anticipation of Charlie’s or Steve’s shot on goal being blocked. Charlie and Kurt continue to pass the ball until one is able to take a shot.
Notice the difference. The Blue team’s plan must be executed perfectly in order to work. It doesn’t have enough flexibility to adapt to change such as an additional defender charging, or if the ball is taken by the opposing team. The Red team’s strategy is fluid. It allows for a variety of situations, and allows the players to respond to unknown situations. It isn’t about executing pre-determined steps, rather it is about understanding how to react to situations, and making informed decisions (and taking actions) based on the current environment.
Plan – Do – Plan – Do
Most organizations utilize a “Plan – Plan – Plan – Do” approach, where they do all of the planning up front, and execute last. Often times the result of all the planning, is a plan that hasn’t evolved as a result of acting. In the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY method, we encourage that you do a small amount of planning, then execute, over and over again, in a “Plan – Do – Plan – Do” approach, using the Simple Guiding Principals to inform the decision making process. This allows organizations to iterate faster, and more often, and allows the future plans to evolve based on the outcome of the execution.
The point is, don’t fixate on a plan, have a strategy that allows you to react to unforeseen impacts on your organization.
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