Feeling strategies – with dedication and passion against blind trust

This is a new text from our “guest writer” Christoph Henties.

A chorus on strategy

“Felt is not recognized.

Recognised is not formulated.

Formulated is not proclaimed.

Proclaimed is not understood.

Understood is not agreed.

Agreed is not applied.

Applied is not maintained.

Maintained is not felt. Felt is not…!”

Whether you are a jazz or classical music fan, love pulsating swing or soulful ballads, everyone can musically intonate the above chorus, the “strategy song”, in their own way. And as a rule, harmonies and songs, especially if you like them, become a catchy tune in your memory – they play themselves, so to speak, almost involuntarily recurring in your “spiritual ear”. How nice it would be if this metaphor also applied to companies‘ extensively elaborated strategic plans.

However, in organizational practice, managers and employees do not even know a verse of their “Strategy Song”, let alone “make music” together as a group – in time and on the beat.

In music, musicians agree on a key, a rhythm, to enable the interplay of their virtuosity with their instruments and a considerable amount of listening at a concert. With their musical abilities they take a position and clearly show their attitude when playing together. When they all get the rhythm just right, grooving, so to speak, then one speaks of playing “tight”. That then grabs less interested listeners in the audience too. Before that they will have rehearsed on their instrumental tools and played for hours or even months, individually or together. The audience finally acknowledge this with applause and the call for an encore.

The chorus is infectious, gives direction. It is the part of a song or poem that regularly recurs. The verses hold the supplementary information. You get involved in the chorus, that is where the implementation is, the following you rely on it. The strategist sets the trend, gives information; the recurring chorus inspires confidence. Verse and chorus rely on each other. In so-called collective strategies in music, sport or art, the actions of orchestras, teams or artist collectives are based on common basic ideas.

If we look at the business perspective: Strategy development and its successful realization are one aspect of organizational development. The word strategy comes from the Chinese concept of “ji”, which literally means “to conjure something out of nothing”. More than 2,000 years ago, so-called stratagems emerged in ancient China as a collection of lists, pitfalls and behaviours that taught the art of warfare. What applies to an army offensive is in many ways significant in everyday situations. Even today, this procedure is still extremely explosive: in the economy, in society, in psychology, in politics – even in leisure time.

In sports and football, one finds extensive terminology on strategy with mixed degrees of success. If a football team loses valuable places in the table, the coach is fired, because you need someone responsible so that things take a turn for the better. And the team wins immediately afterwards, because if this were not the case, the team would become the problem. Even elaborate strategies are not immune to being fig leaves for expected changes – and thus placebos for success.

In companies direction is often determined by metric-orientated formalists using PowerPoint karaoke and business gobbledegook. As a result, their actions are declared to be creative; this type knows no reality beyond “the world of key figures”.

“You can’t, if you can’t feel it, if it never
Rises from the soul, and sways
The heart of every single hearer with
primordial pleasure.”

(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Further development needs courage to question the courage. Courage to move in unknown territory as well as the courage to endure uncertainty. Courage to trust – yourself and others.

Back to music: it moves people so much because it appeals to them, because it carries people away. In feeling, not only in their head. Is this the opportunity for change?

Professionalism is the basis without which nothing really works, but it is not enough to achieve something special. In the end it is the common emotion that makes strategies successful.  “Felt is not recognised …!”

Original text: Christoph Henties
English translation: BCO

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