The Organizational Strategist

January 2, 2010

Accelerating your Strategic Projects thru Whole System Involvement


  Take a few moments to think about a team or group effort that you’ve been involved in that went particularly well because of the right people being involved. Having the right people in place at the right time can drastically speed up a project, in whatever phase it may be in. Now think about the opposite scenario when a group effort took a really long time because of roadblocks like needing approvals, having to wait for a particular person’s or unit’s input, the complexity of needing to involve a huge number of stakeholders, or other problems.

  There are times when slowing down for a moment, allows the organization to speed up overall. Trying to do large scale change in a gradual fashion can seem to take forever. This might be the case because of the time it takes to bring aboard all of the stakeholders, ensure clear and complete communication, or to roll out the changes takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication. By bringing in the whole system to advance a project effort, the complexity and intricacies that can bog down a project are drastically reduced.

-Whole System Involvement-

  By bringing in people from all around the project’s organization as well as any relevant stakeholder groups into the same room at the same time, the whole system becomes involved and great things happen. This incorporation of different people and groups would come in the form of some sort of summit, conference, or workshop. I’ll use the term workshop. Helpful tip – Use the stakeholder groupings of the 4 I’s to help identify which kinds of stakeholders to bring in for the project.

    Interested – Who would be interested in this project?

    Informed – Who would be informed about some or all of the elements of this project?

    Impacted – Who would be impacted throughout the course of this project?

    Influenced – Who would be influenced by this project or who might be influential in implementing it?

The more representation that is involved in the workshop, the more informed, able, and empowered the entire effort can become. As more people become involved, there are a number of benefits:

  • More representation of disparate parts of systemic information can be included. Think about auxiliary business units, specialized areas, and other areas that may have unique input. This also drastically speeds up implementation planning.
  • Communication is simpler, easier, and faster. Any vision, direction, or other communication elements that most or all of the organization would need to know becomes much more effectively understood since the creation, intent, and core of the message would likely be made during the workshop.
  • Planning and empowerment for project implementation is able to be granted quickly. With the decision makers and sponsors being involved in the workshop, project presentations, pitches, and meetings are minimized. That means the people high up are on board with the change initiative at the same time as those who devise, design and implement.
  • New revelations and understanding become possible through the exposure and incorporation of stakeholder interactions that are further away from the known functions. For any given role in an organization, there are functions that are closer and further away. The further the role/function distance that is bridged, the more likely sharing of information can lead to new understanding. A strong proponent of whole system involvement is that a CEO might talk with an assembly line worker, which makes the workshop all the more real and powerful while allowing information sharing and collaboration. Diversity brings many benefits.
  • The importance and belief in the workshop goal(s) is shared by all. With the development that the workshop brings, so too does the understanding and shared importance spread. The diversity of individuals and stakeholder groups helps make sure that the workshop addresses any and all of the important points. That inclusion and collaboration helps foster championship among all present.

-Appreciative Inquiry Summit Usage-

  Appreciative Inquiry (AI) summits utilize whole system involvement as much as possible. The AI interviews work very well for bringing up great ideas and generating a lot of collaborative, positive energy. Summit designs often have one or more rounds of AI interviews where representatives from different stakeholder groups interview each other to bridge the differences among the participants and foster understanding. Due to the infectious energy that AI interviews bring, interviewers often become the biggest proponents of their interviewee’s ideas. With the whole system involvement, the benefits from diversity are increased. From that diversity, the information gathering/sharing is even better.


  It may seem that pulling so many people away from their normal jobs and roles is a crazy thing to do because of the productivity loss that would cause. Yet, if the project initiative is an important one, taking people away from their usual jobs can be well worth the time and effort. As listed above, there are many benefits from the large scale collaboration and involvement of the whole system.

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