Many people have helped me pick the title of my new book in contributing ideas or reviewing options. It seemed only fair to update you now that we’ve made the decision. (in this case, we means the great team at O’Reilly and myself).
The book is about a way to do collaborative strategy within firms. And it represents a new way to tap into the power of the full organization, a new way to generate ideas and pick amongst them, and a way for an organization to win. The way, being the New How. Hence the title:
Some people have asked about the background of the book. So, one thing stands out across all the leaders, managers, and staff that I’ve worked with is that we believe collaboration produces better results.
Whether collaboration helps us to see the situation fully so we solve the real problem, provides the idea engine for more options to choose from, or helps us to align to achieve a new direction, the many flavors of collaboration are valued. Not only that, collaboration in a corporate structure creates that elusive “buy-in” that every organization seeks.
Yet, most of us don’t use a collaborative approach in tough problems. From that, I draw the conclusion that we don’t work collaboratively because we don’t know how, yet. We don’t know how to do it without going slower, getting diluted, or having the focus more on working/together, instead of together/working.
Given the rate of changing markets, collaboration when applied in business is (IMO) the new black — with good reason. Collaboration can fill that gap I call an Air Sandwich: the empty void in an organization between the high-level strategy up in the stratosphere and the realization of that vision down on the floor. Where there should be connective pieces between the vision and the reality, in an Air Sandwich the filling consists mainly of misunderstandings, confusions, and disinformation. It is that Air Sandwich which prevents us from winning.
As soon as I could see the Air Sandwich within the organization (years ago when I worked inside big companies like Autodesk and Apple) I knew it was precisely what we needed to eliminate. Most companies already have a bunch of knowledge within the firm, and most don’t need an outside management consulting firm, or guru from on high to tell them the strategy. Instead, what companies need to fill the void of the airsandwich is a practical approach that demands everyone have a voice, lets us gather insights from anywhere in the organization, allows us to make decisions that align with the vision, collectively debate, learn, and know better information, to embrace conflict and tension as part of the creative process, argue over things that matter, and still align. And, given the larger times, this approach better let us move faster, not slower, more practically than theory and it better let us tap into the power of the people in the organization.
Bottom line, it’s not a lack of will to collaborate and set direction, but a lack of how. While many people say they value collaboration, they’re behaviors, and processes, and organizational systems are not set up to achieve success. We need a New How. I’m hoping this book helps with the problem and helps strategy work get more effective. It’s a practical book (no surprise) and it’s been fun getting to this point.