Episode 9 | Demystifying strategic planning with Dave Algoso

Episode 9 June 28, 2023 00:39:14
Episode 9 | Demystifying strategic planning with Dave Algoso
Remote Culture Club with Alix Dunn
Episode 9 | Demystifying strategic planning with Dave Algoso

Jun 28 2023 | 00:39:14


Show Notes

Having a clear strategy can dramatically improve the way your team functions. But developing a clear strategy? It’s not always so easy. In this week’s episode, Alix sits down with social change strategist and facilitator Dave Algoso to demystify strategic planning. They discuss the elements of a good strategic planning process and identify common pitfalls to help you avoid going astray.

Whether you’re kicking off a formal strategic planning process or just trying to figure out a way to keep your remote team moving in the same strategic direction, Dave’s guidance will help you build a better, more intentional process to reach your goals.


After you listen, find Dave at algoso.org and say hello here.


For more, check out our website or follow Alix on Twitter.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:06 I do feel like a, a little bit of my mission here is to demystify these processes because I think that they have been intentionally mystified by people like myself who want to sell an organization on how complex this is. And you have to have strategy experts. And I, you know, I point the finger a little more at the bigger firms to be honest, who like make it, whose business is to make it seem like this is a hard thing to do. And I'm not saying expertise in the process isn't important and having been through the processes before and understand what the pitfalls might be, those are all critical. But like you say, everyone is doing this in some way or another, uh, even just on a daily basis. Like we can't as humans, you know, get dressed in the morning or feed ourselves or get across the street if we're not thinking about what're trying to, what we're trying to achieve, where we are now and the steps we're gonna get through to get there. Speaker 2 00:00:51 Welcome to the Remote Culture Club podcast. On this show we inspire and equip leaders to build remote culture that works. I'm your host Alex Dunn and even though I've been leading remote organizations for over 10 years, I'm always learning more. It's really nice to have you here. And without further ado, welcome to the show. Speaker 2 00:01:18 In this episode we have Dave Al Goso who works with organizations, mostly nonprofits, um, on strategic planning processes. And what's cool about Dave is that he really cares about the organizations he works with and wants to help them be better in basically every way. So while we're talking about strategic planning processes, we're really using that as a way to talk about any big change process that you might try and go through with your organization. And we talk about how to do that well even in remote and distributed contexts. So how to build trust so that you can get creative and take risks with your organization and get specific about what it is you're trying to accomplish. So without further ado, Dave Al Goso. Speaker 2 00:02:05 All right, so today we have Dave Al Goso here to talk about running strategy processes and maybe more specifically sort of how to think about that in remote settings because that sort of introduces another level of complexity in that kind of a thing. Dave, I'm gonna let you introduce yourself, but I think of you as sort of an ace facilitator strategy guy that works within the transparency and accountability field, primarily with civil society, but working on sort of anti-corruption more broadly than that transparency. Um, and that you're quite good at supporting organizations and communities sort of systematically figure out what big thing are they trying to do and then kind of work backwards and figure out what does everybody need to do to kind of get us there. And that there's a lot of moving parts in that and I'd love to talk to you more about sort of how you think about when those groups are decentralized or distributed and when they're also on Zoom calls to sort of try and process what it is they think and how they wanna move forward. But that's what I think you do. Do you wanna say a little bit <laugh> about maybe what you actually do? Speaker 1 00:03:05 Thanks Alex. That's a pretty good summary. I'll add a little bit more detail to that. Glad to be able to talk about this with you. So my background is that I started my career as a campaign organizer working across the United States on some local democracy issues, climate change, some other sort of local reform, uh, issues. And as an organizer, the key is to figure out how a group of people can set an intention, set a goal, a destination, whatever you want to call it, and think about how they're gonna get there together. That has, that thinking has followed me through to my strategy work. I've moved away from organizing directly in terms of campaigns or grassroots of any kind in part because there are some other people out there who do that work so much better than I ever did it. But I brought some of those frameworks forward with me as I started to move more towards a little bit of what you were describing, helping organizations that are thinking about how government works, how civil society works, how we as a society are making big broad joint decisions, setting a direction that our society wants to go at that kind of macro level and and how we're gonna get there. Speaker 1 00:04:08 And of course that is much more complicated than uh, doing it even with a small group. And it involves the efforts of a lot of small groups coming together. So I end up working with organizations like the kinds you mentioned, civil society organizations working in anti-corruption foundations, focused on democracy a little bit on, you know, multilaterals or kind of big donors that are doing work globally with NGOs or others, uh, in multiple countries. But right at this point about half my work is global. Maybe half of it is, um, domestic to the United States as well. And it all does tend to focus on those strategy processes as an entry point for how an organization changes the work it's doing. Facilitation is a big part of that, but you know, as anybody who does strategy work, I think will testify the work often involves wearing many different hats as a facilitator, as an executive coach, as a team builder, sometimes as a researcher or project manager. So it often means bringing a lot of those pieces together. Speaker 2 00:05:01 Yeah, that's so interesting too that you think of strategy process as an entry point to sort of broader organizational challenge or change. Cause I think of that in terms of our work on remote culture <laugh>, it's a, it's basically just like the opening salvo of oh you have a problem, let's start working. And it's like, oh, the problem you thought you had might be different than the one you actually have. Um, which I find that discovery phase of figuring out what the real problem is, I find really, uh, enjoyable <laugh>. But that's, I mean I think strategy process is maybe a nice place to start just in terms of specifics and sort of getting us clear on what a sort of longer term big change thing might look like, which I think will ground us in the conversation in terms of what good might look like. And with that, I mean, do you mind sharing sort of what you think a good strategy process looks like? Speaker 1 00:05:52 Yeah, so there's some broad principles, everyone who does strategy, whether you came out of of you know, some big strategy firm, you know, a McKinsey or a Bridgespan or if you've kind of come up doing it more independently, which is my, had been my path. Everyone thinks about some, some broad pieces that have to come together. You might have your own framework around it. You might have some very specific language of, you know, how you describe your four step process for whatever. But I think there's some broad pieces that always fit together. As I mentioned before, the big thing is helping a group understand where it's trying to go and whether again, whether you call that a goal or an objective or something else, a vision mission. You know, there's different definitions within here, but ultimately it's about what are we trying to do as a group? Speaker 1 00:06:31 And if you are a civil society organization or a social change actor of some kind, it's often about what kind of world do we wanna live in. It's not just what are we trying to do for our organization or our company, but it's what are we trying to do outside of the walls of our organization as well? So that's a big part of it. That's always a big piece. Maybe that comes first, maybe it comes second, but somewhere early on you wanna figure out what that potential destination is. Another big piece is understanding where you are now. So you can think about that in terms of context analysis. There's usually an internal and an external part to that. So where are the challenges? What are we struggling with internally? They might be process oriented, they might be cultural oriented as you mentioned. Uh, we'll get to kind of the remote culture pieces, but often it's about how we're working together as a group. Speaker 1 00:07:12 That can be a strategic challenge for a team, especially if there are things like toxic culture elements or other things that are really inhibiting an organization from doing what it's trying to do. Then there's also the external side of that. What's the world that we're living in? Uh, how is it changing? How has it changed since the last time we really took a step back and reflected, especially if you're an organization that only does a strategy process periodically, you know, do we really have a shared understanding of what the world that we're living in looks like now in order to think about how we get to where we're going. And then the core of it then is how you connect those two, the destination with where you are. What's that journey there? It's a map, it's a theory of change. It's a strategy. There's again, different framings for it, but it's ultimately about helping people understand how where we are now is gonna translate into what we do next and into the world that we wanna get to the different frames. Speaker 1 00:08:01 That takes often depends on the kind of organization you're in, the kind of expectations that your partners and stakeholders might have. So if you are a civil society organization or a nonprofit and you have a board that expects to see a strategy that looks a certain way, they wanna see a theory of change and they have an idea of what a theory of change diagram looks like, or if you're a inter international development, there's this thing called a log frame. And programs in particular at the program level always have a log frame. It's a logical framework for connecting what you're doing at, these are all great frameworks. You know, I'm, I'm pretty agnostic to which framework you use in any given context cuz they all kind of topographically map to each other. You could translate one into the other if you wanted to, but you have to have something to help structure those conversations. Speaker 1 00:08:42 Otherwise it can feel a little bit loose. So having those different pieces come together matters. And then the last thing I'll mention, and maybe we'll come back to this, uh, throughout the conversation is that a big part of this is how people understand how these things connect. And that's why having different forms of participation, stakeholder consultations, co-design, again, however you wanna think about it, is important because coming outta that strategy process, the people who are gonna execute it have to really understand it. And if they're just receiving a document from somebody who, uh, went into a room and created a strategy based on their own brilliance, it might actually be the perfect strategy in a sense. But if people don't really understand it, if they don't own it, then they won't be able to execute it. Speaker 2 00:09:23 That's super interesting. I mean, I feel like I was gonna ask you what a bad strategy process looks like, but I feel like you've kind of, the shadow answer is pretty obvious there. I'll I'll give you a chance to answer that question though. Cause I think it's, imagine that there's some humor potentially and some people might see themselves in it, which is always good. Speaker 1 00:09:40 Yeah, that's, Speaker 2 00:09:41 That's super interesting. I mean as you're sort of talking through that, I mean it feels universal, which I think you basically shared at the, at the up top in terms of basically any group trying to do anything has to go through these steps to sort of structure the way that they take resources and try and turn them into something like there's a, I can imagine a lot of teams that are building product and trying to sort of launch them into the world and build a customer base and build a successful, I don't know, technology company for example, that this is still similar. I imagine maybe the cycles or cadence that you set your strategic planning cycles on might be shorter in some of those situations, whereas in civil society it does tend to feel like they're much more on like the three year kind of view. Speaker 2 00:10:23 It's like a much longer cycle because I imagine money and there's the picture quite differently in the civil society space than in in industry. But that's really interesting. I really like that sort of stripped down four steps because I think it also kind of de jargon FIEs things and also demystifies how complex these things need to be. Which makes me wonder, maybe part of the issues I've seen where this is done distributed or remote teams is because people make it too complicated or they focus on objectives that are adjacent to the actual objectives of each of these four steps and then they get disoriented because they didn't do the last step well enough to make room for the next step. <laugh>, I don't know, this is really, really, really, really helpful as a framework. Speaker 1 00:11:08 Yeah, I wanna pick up on that idea of some of the places where it goes wrong. Yeah, please do. Speaker 1 00:11:14 I do feel like a little bit of my mission here is to demystify these processes because I think that they have been intentionally mystified by people like myself who want to sell an organization on how complex this is. And you have to have strategy experts and I, you know, I point the finger a little more at the bigger firms to be honest, who like make it, whose business is to make it seem like this is a hard thing to do. And I'm not saying expertise in the process isn't important and having been through the processes before and understand what the pitfalls might be, those are all critical. But like you say, everyone is doing this in some way or another, uh, even just on a daily basis. Like we can't as humans, you know, get dressed in the morning or feed ourselves or get across the street if we're not thinking about what're trying to, what we're trying to achieve, where we are now and the steps we're gonna get go through to get there. Speaker 1 00:11:59 But when it comes to the organizational side, it does start to get more complicated. And a lot of it is because of those structures that come into place that are different if you're a tech organization versus a civil society, a foundation God help you, uh, a government agency of some kind, the kinds of constraints that you're under, the kinds of frameworks you have to deal with. Hopefully there's some, there's some form of this anyway, but it doesn't have to be a formal strategy process. And so when I think about the places where it potentially goes wrong and things to think about, one is in that timing question, as you say, a lot of private sector organizations might be on a faster kind of cycle. I think a lot of civil society organizations and others in the nonprofit sector are starting to realize that they do need to move to a faster cycle. Speaker 1 00:12:42 It doesn't mean everyone has to have kind of an internal agile scrum approach to everything they do if they're not, even if they're not working on a technology product. But I think it does mean that the kind of five or 10 year strategy that you set and then wait and don't come back to until four and a half or nine and a half years later, that should absolutely be a thing of the past. Like there's no reason to think at that kind of timescale at that point. Your actual strategy has drifted so far from the strategy that's been written down that it just doesn't matter. So the timing, the timing is critical. Doing it at a kind of more rapid pace, at a pace that makes sense for the kind of organization you're in and thinking about having those strategy checkpoints and learning checkpoints throughout rather than just happening when you are writing a new strategy. Speaker 1 00:13:25 So that's a big one. The questions of buy-in that you kind of pointed at are another big one. So do people actually understand this strategy? Do they feel like their voice has been heard in it? Do they understand which direction it's going at at a at a kind of deep visceral level so they understand for their team or their role what comes next and they're, you see minor mistakes in this where an organization simply releases something that people don't understand, um, and haven't been part of. And then you see major, major disconnects. I hate to kind of bash on Twitter as the example, but like obviously right now Twitter has no clear strategy about what it's trying to do and that means that people who are there are responding to the whims of their executive and trying to kind of figure out which direction that goes. Speaker 1 00:14:08 Maybe try to do some good things in the meantime, but a lot of 'em seem like they're just looking for another place to work. That's the extreme version of people just having no idea, uh, what the strategy is, not understanding it, not being bought into it. The last piece though is another one that I think the civil society space in particular struggles with, which is writing a strategy based on an external audience, in particular a board or donors. And so often a strategy process is oriented towards creating a shiny PDF that's very lovely and, and looks great and really kind of communicates the spirit of the organization, but doesn't in any concrete way help people understand what they're trying to do or what or how they're gonna get there when you, you know, I've been responsible for being part of processes that lead to these sometimes in a good version it's like the capstone and the external version of deeper kind of more nuanced internal strategy, but sometimes it just gets filtered through and that's what people look at as a strategy and if you really pick it apart, you realize there's not necessarily a lot of there there, there haven't been a lot of decisions made, there haven't been a lot of real choices that are gonna give anyone guidance on how to do their work and that's more strategy theater than it is kind of actually doing strategy. Speaker 1 00:15:16 So those are some of the challenges and that is true of in-person processes, virtual processes, hybrids, like these are, these are all kind of perennial issues that that challenge anyone who's trying to really articulate what they're trying to accomplish and how they're gonna get there. Speaker 2 00:15:31 Yeah, that's super interesting. I think that's a trend I've seen in conversations with also just documentation generally that if the purpose of the documentation isn't to communicate the context necessary for someone to do something, that it actually can be meaningless and distracting <laugh> and you end up having organizations sometimes that are very good at documenting, but they document sort of a form of storytelling for an external audience and it's not actually about the nuts and bolts of how a thing happens and what to say no to and how to say no and sort of what good looks like within um, sort of execution within the organization. And I think that can be maybe a nice like endorphin hit of feeling like you have a narrative of the organization <laugh>, but actually can be almost, um, a net negative for people because it's you, you think it should be there, the answer and it's not. And it takes time to sort of figure out, you know, where is the there if it's not there <laugh>. And I think that's just like a really, yeah, I hadn't, I hadn't quite thought about it as because it's theater, it's actually not just, uh, not reality. It's distracting you from reality I think with documentation super interesting Speaker 1 00:16:42 And Speaker 2 00:16:43 Harmful I imagine, and such a waste of time and energy and attention for organizations sometimes that don't have any space, um, for that. That's super interesting. How would you describe, this is just like a selfish question that has basically nothing to do with the topic at hand in terms of remoteness, but how would you describe the difference between a strategy and a plan? Speaker 1 00:17:02 Oh, so my friend Alan Hudson, uh, who you may know as well has put a lot of thinking into kind of theory of change within the kind of transparency space as you mentioned, the space that you and I have both done some work in with different organizations related to government accountability and how we kind of bring citizen voice into government. He talked about theory a lot and I, I tend to avoid that term, but I think it's a really great way to answer your question. Strategy has some theory baked into it for how what you're doing is gonna translate. It's a testable theory. Ideally it's some hypothesis for why we think what we're doing will result in the the changes we're gonna get to, you know, one of my, one of my earliest, uh, bosses referred to a campaign strategy as a theory for how we're going to win. Speaker 1 00:17:47 And in the campaign we will test that theory. We'll find out if we're right or not. And if we are smart and if we've measured things and we've, if we've tracked what we're learning along the way, uh, we will learn and improve that theory based on it. Not every organization does that a plan, which might be part of it. Your strategy might have a kind of plan incorporated within it, within it, but it's less likely to really articulate that theory. It's much more about what are we trying to do and how are we gonna hold ourselves accountable for, for doing that. So it can get much more granular. People talk about a strategy document or a strategic plan and sometimes you get to the end of a process and you realize the document you wrote doesn't have a plan. And it's a calling it strategic plan. Speaker 1 00:18:23 It's, it's, it's just the theory side. So you wanna drop the word plan or sometimes the word plan gets in there, uh, and we wanna make sure we have some detail, but we don't wanna share too much. So it, it ends up becoming semantics a little bit. But the broad distinction I think is that at the strategic level, you wanna think what is, what is your hypothesis that you, your assumptions that you're making, the things you're trying to test, the things you're trying to learn for, why what you're doing will translate into that broader world as opposed to the more granular side of what are the actual actions we're gonna take to get there. Speaker 2 00:18:51 That's interesting. So it's almost like a spectrum from of certainty. So the more certain you are, the more it is a plan and the more sort of uncertain you are because you're guessing or um, uh, taking a risk or sort of testing something the more it's in the sort of strategy. So Speaker 1 00:19:08 That's what I'm, yeah, that's a good way to put it. And often that spectrum, any document might cover some part of it, the output of a process. Maybe you already have a strategy and you're pretty far along and what you need is to get more granular or maybe you have a plan. And what you need is to really kind of talk together about what is this, what is the implicit strategy that underpins that? Because we didn't really articulate a strategy, we just jumped straight into a plan. Can we zoom out a little bit to have something that we can articulate and then interrogate and learn from? Because if it's only implicit within the plan, then we don't have, uh, a theory that we can test and try to improve. We're just working at that more granular level. Speaker 2 00:19:45 That's super interesting. Okay, well let's get to the remote part of all of this. So we've talked about good, we've talked about bad, we've talked about some of these dynamics that emerge when we're trying to do something that's complex, big, maybe a little intimidating, maybe involving different people in different ways and sort of needing to message that, um, specifically based on what we want and what we need from different people in a process. Do you wanna share a little bit about, maybe we could start with sort of how you approach remote or distributed strategy processes if it's different, and then we can get into sort of, not necessarily heuristics, but sort of things you think people should consider when they're designing these types of processes. Speaker 1 00:20:26 Sure. So Alex, you had, um, used the word storytelling before, which in narrat talking about narrative, which is a, I think, incredibly useful frame for talking about strategy as well as, you know, individual workshops or design sessions within a strategy process. What's the, what's the story that we are creating together to get to where we're going? And you know, the, the first thing I'd say about the shift to remote that so many organizations had to do three years ago and continue to do, but as you know, many organizations had already done, is that the core story is not, not that much different. The core framework that I put before, like the fundamentals of strategy are not that much different, but how you invite people into that story does change dramatically sometimes. So I think the first thing we learned for organizations that suddenly had to switch to remote that kind of, kind of got thrown in the deep end was that we can do a lot more virtually than we perhaps realized that we could a lot more that didn't need to be in person, that didn't need to be, uh, you know, there's all sorts of tools, there's all sorts of methods, there's all sorts of processes we can put into place and we'll talk about some of the specifics. Speaker 1 00:21:31 But I think there was a, a lesson very quickly that we could do this and in the long run that's gonna save organizations a lot of time on money spent on travel, rent and expensive places, but we need to be more deliberate about it. And that's because of that change in the story. So the traditional, uh, strategy process would've involved some kind of strategy offsite retreat, whatever it might be, or a couple core strategy days where you do some focused, intensive conversations. People are in the same room together, they're struggling through these challenges, wondering about what they're trying to do, wondering about when do I bring up this issue that's been on my mind for a couple months, how do I get it, you know, addressed through this process, all these different things. And then having side conversations over coffee. That's a, that's a just physically different experience than the switch to remote where suddenly the strategy conversation feels no different from any other zoom or team meeting I had that day. Speaker 1 00:22:23 It's no longer that separate liminal space. Now it's one more thing on my calendar. I, I typically would switch instead of doing kind of those intensive days, would spread them out to maybe half days, uh, over the course of a week or even over the course of a few weeks so that people aren't in that same zoom conversation hour after hour after hour. And there are good things about that because it just lets the conversation breathe a little bit more. Um, we don't feel like because we all traveled the same place, we have to stack the conversations back to back jump, jump right from our context conversation to our destination. Instead, we can take a week where somebody does some research or we think about it or you have an idea when I'm in the shower the next day, whatever it might be, suddenly we had that space in virtual. Speaker 1 00:23:04 But because we've lost that visceral sense, that feel of being in the room together, we have to do other things to make that process stand out. Otherwise the story gets lost, it gets lost in everything else that we do that week and we no longer have six months down the line or a year down the line, we no longer have that joint reference point where we could say, Hey, you remember, remember we talked about this, you know, we, you were, you were across the coffee table and Alex raised this really difficult issue and then, uh, you know, so-and-so had another idea and it, that physical space ingrains those ideas in a way that in just in us remembering them somatically I guess in a way that one more zoom call doesn't. So we have to change that the way that we engage with those processes a little bit to make that story a little bit more memorable for people who are gonna be carrying it forward. Speaker 1 00:23:53 That means, you know, for example, trying to, trying to brand the process a little bit better. Um, trying to create space that is really different. I think for some organizations they're now that people are coming out of a hundred percent remote are doing, you know, designated strategy offsites like de destination retreats I guess in a sense because everybody's distributed so they wanna have some space where they come together, but then you want, you wanna keep that piece of having the process that can spread out over a number of weeks instead of always focusing together. So how do you keep that those pieces together? I think that's a big thing to think about. And the last thing I'll say is that, uh, this actually came out of another conversation with the global integrity team, but I think it was, uh, Ned Neda Zdi who used to run the open gov hub and now works with the Obama Foundation. Speaker 1 00:24:35 I think she was the one who pointed out during some scenario planning sessions early in covid that teams and individuals who have strong existing relationships can really leverage those going forward, uh, throughout a remote period and moving to a hundred percent virtual even as we as people kind of let down some of the pandemic precautions. But if you are starting out, if you're a new organization or new somebody younger earlier in their career, it's much harder to build those relationships in a totally virtual space. And you know, that's, that's not, you know, it's not a hard and fast rule. You can obviously build new relationships and virtually um, you know, you and I I think met once 10 years ago maybe <laugh> and have like stayed in touch since then. But it's certainly harder and it's something to kind of be aware of as you build relationships across a team. And I know you've had experience with this at the engine room and in your work since. As you build those relationships across a team, you have to be much more deliberate about it and think about how you build those, how you nurture them in kind of a one-on-one way as opposed to just getting everyone together and assuming that kind of the na human nature will make people come together as they're in one place. You've gotta be much more deliberate about those things. Speaker 2 00:25:43 That's really interesting. I hadn't really thought about the importance of a social frame of reference for strategy conversations cuz there is something about, like, I remember knowing like a person on the team well enough to know that they're always gonna ask the question that's like, well what happens if this doesn't work? Or there's another person who's always gonna be like, well why can't we also do that? And and always wanting sort of expand what we're doing. There's like, there's those sort of personalities that you get to know over time and it makes strategy processes easier not just to sort of navigate but to sort of bring out the best in everybody and sort of pull them in at the right moment so they can add the most value to a process. And it's true that you actually have to know people reasonably well to sort of know how, what sort of character they're playing <laugh> in your cast of characters and also what limitations there are and how that's unevenly distributed when you're in a remote conversation. Speaker 2 00:26:33 Cuz there's gonna be, I think a lot about like the og, which happens in in-person spaces, you feel it immediately where two people are having a conversation and everyone's watching when you're in person that feels deeply unnatural and actually people will be like, this is weird, why are we watching these two people have this, like you can just feel it in a remote space. People sort of get in this very passive, I'm now watching two people have a conversation. And I think there's dynamics like that in remote that if you, if you have a richer relationship with people, it's much easier to to sort of spot those dynamics that emerge and call them out as well because you have the relationships there and it's not as aggressive semen <laugh> as it might otherwise come across that. So, interesting you mentioned tools, like are there any particular tools that you've used that have, cuz I really like this idea too of creating enough space that people can kind of reflect and it doesn't feel rushed and it doesn't feel like, oh, if I don't put an idea on the table in this conversation, there's not gonna be another opportunity to do that. Speaker 2 00:27:33 But that's hard to do when there's not a physical space to come back to and return from. As you've, as you've mentioned, are there sort of tools or ways of constructing a sort of, uh, venue <laugh> in in online spaces that you have found works to manage some of those dynamics? Speaker 1 00:27:51 Yes, but I, I've never been happy with any of them and obviously there's been a lot of experimentation in the last few years as more organizations are moving in these directions. Some of the bigger organizations I've worked with have been locked into something like teams instead of, you know, trying something that might be a little bit more interesting, but it's not like Zoom is that much better or meet is that much better usually for a virtual facilitation with talking about kind of like that, that kind of focused moment when groups are coming together, I'm usually trying to get people on video and then on something else that's gonna, you know, give us a virtual whiteboard. I've toyed around with Mural and Miro, I can't, couldn't tell you which one is which, but they're both great in different ways, but I find that unless a team is already using something like that or if the, they're gonna really integrate it in their work, the learning curve is just a little bit too steep to use it for a process that isn't going to be, isn't going to last for too long and isn't gonna be part of other things that they do. Speaker 1 00:28:47 I think for maybe some of the product teams you're working with, they might be more familiar with those tools, but then maybe actually you wanna break them out of it for something like this. Like, like I said, you want this process kind of process to feel different. My default often has been Google slides and I, I wish I could remember who I got this idea from. It was somebody who was at mobilization lab for a while just in a Twitter exchange early on in Covid, basically using one slide the way you might use one flip chart, uh, sheet in a, in a in-person space and you can create spaces on there for exercises you might do. And then everyone has that open alongside so it's not a presentation, they, they have it open and they're all engaging with that space. You can use it for spectrum diagrams, you can use it for.voting for any number of exercises you might do in an in-person space and it's also your notes capture for the conversation as well. Speaker 1 00:29:35 I found with some teams that don't use slides in that way, that itself can be one of those things that marks this process is a little bit different. You can obviously put some, you know, branding, logos, coloring, whatever it might be that you want to help make this process distinctive in that, but it's still not, it's still not the same as having space together with the team in person. And that's be, that's just a limit, that's a natural limitation of kind of virtual workshop spaces. You do have to build in some other things in between those sessions around them, whether that's checkpoints with individual people distributing out pieces of the process to have someone kind of take leadership outta that session to then develop the next piece or something or small groups that are gonna come together maybe separately from that to develop whatever the next piece of something might be. Speaker 1 00:30:18 You have to have some of those mechanisms in place to make sure that there is that continuity between those sessions. But ultimately it's, it's always gonna be a little bit challenging when you don't have that in-person space to create that continuity and create those connections. But I'm, you know, even if a team has an option, I still think there are huge benefits from doing it virtually. Like, like I said that that issue of not feeling like you have to rush conversation for the next conversation because you all flew together, all flew to be in the same space and you like have to make the most of that time. I think that's incredibly valuable. I would love to see some organizations blend those two a little bit better and I just haven't found the right process I think yet to create space for that to do those more periodic uh, moments kind of spread out in the lead up to some intensive time together. And maybe that intensive time is not just focused on strategy, but you have a few key strategy sessions within it. There's also some team building skill building, some work planning, other things like that connected to it as well. And then coming out of it you have some clear sense of what those next pieces on the strategy process will be and how those are spread out too. Speaker 2 00:31:22 Yeah, I like thinking of it as sort of parallel processing. So normal work continues, but we have this thing that's kind of continuing and we are keeping track of the key questions and the key things we need to be working on so that we can sort of move the thing forward but without everybody orienting around it for a short period of time and then trying to rush it or, or just feeling, I mean the feeling I see most often in organizations is that they have a strategy process, it's finished rather than it answering a lot of questions and giving them the brain space to start doing stuff. It creates this lingering sense of confusion or <laugh> or sort of disgruntledness that like, uh, <laugh>, uh, either a thing wasn't mentioned or a thing didn't happen quite like they wanted or, and the box isn't closed so it doesn't actually give you what I think a good strategy process should, which is feeling like you've got a foothold and you can really focus and sort of think about the plan moving forward rather than the sort of big questions. Speaker 1 00:32:16 Yeah, and I think that's also where the transition from a strategy process to, to a strategic function matters. It shouldn't be, again, it shouldn't be like you do your strategy in six months every five years. I would rather you do something lighter every two years and then you have some way that that carries forward over the course of the period in between so that it doesn't feel like you have to do all of it in that process. It doesn't feel like you have to commission some huge piece of research to really do a full kind of mapping of the landscape, which is the kind of thing that a lot of civil society organizations do and then set your strategy for the next several years because that's where you end up with that drift where the thing that was written becomes irrelevant and what you're actually doing is, is sort of implicitly different, but no one has explicitly talked about how it's different. Speaker 1 00:33:00 And when you do that, you end up not really making the best of the kind of idea or strategy of having a theory of testing it, of improving what you're doing, but having some ongoing function, you are revisiting that in a more frequent basis. Some organizations do a periodic kind of strategy refresh a lighter process, but there should also be some clear learning goals or or processes baked into that strategy that say, you know, at this regularity we're gonna revisit these questions and we're gonna look at certain metrics, we're gonna look at certain, you know, uh, things that we're hearing from our partners to try and revisit what it is we're trying to do and how we can improve that. Speaker 2 00:33:35 Yeah, that makes a ton of sense and I like the idea of it being a function because it is, it's a, it's sort of a muscle of a team, it's not a moment. Um, which I think is an important distinction. This is super helpful. Is there anything else now that we're sort of in this head space, if you're talking to somebody who's running a remote team and trying to do some change process that feels a bit daunting. Um, are there any sort of final words of wisdom from your experience doing this? Speaker 1 00:34:03 I think some of it probably ties to a lot of the work that you're doing with Remote Culture club. I mean this is an organization change process and as you noted the beginning we're kind of coming at the same thing in some ways from two different angles. And some organizations might very clearly recognize we have a remote culture problem, we wanna figure out how to address that and how do we, how do we think about that? And they might look for the kinds of tools and and support that you provide. But then the other side is some organizations might say might, maybe they recognize that but they don't fully articulate it in that way, but they do know that they need to revisit their strategy. Well your remote culture, if you're a remote organization, your culture in general is how your team works together and how your team works together is how you're gonna get to the destination that you're trying to reach. Speaker 1 00:34:44 That is your strategy. So a process like this can very much be an opportunity to rethink that the way the team works together. And some of 'em might, might be just very, very, uh, sort of a side effect of it. So you've seen some new collaboration tools because a facilitator introduced you to them so you carry those forward, but some of 'em might be more deliberate. You get to the end of the strategy process and you realize, you know, we need to shift. One of our barriers has been that we don't, we don't kind of learn from our failures, so we need to think about how we talk to get to each other, how we document our, our challenges, how we share about them. That's a remote culture question as well. So these are sort of, they dovetail together. You can use a process like this to shift things a little bit and to identify the places you want it to go next. Speaker 1 00:35:27 There's also just as you mentioned before, I think different ways that different people engage both in these processes and going forward. I think that one positive kind of workplace change that has happened in the last few years is people are much more recognized the different kinds of supports and um, ways to engage that people have or need to really do their work well. Whether that's because they have caregiving responsibilities cuz they have kids at home, uh, especially early on during the school shutdowns, people were very aware of that. But then also just the way that people with different personalities and temperament engage to be able to kind of jump in in a conversation, uh, is, is is a unique skill that is rewarded in our workplace. It's a unique personality but not everyone has it and it, and we shouldn't be e effectively penalizing people who don't feel as confident or comfortable inserting themselves into a conversation. Speaker 1 00:36:15 This is also a very gendered question as well. When I facilitate workspaces, it workshops in a big space with all people together. It's easy to see if you get in that, if people get in that dual log of just two people going back and forth. And to be able to encourage, kind of create space where people to uh, either invite other people in, break out into smaller groups, uh, what give people a chance to reflect before they share whatever that might be so that other people have a chance to get into the conversation. But in a virtual space that's har as you said, harder to see and harder to really correct. So you have to be a lot more deliberate about how you approach it. But I do think it's a positive trend that people are thinking about those pieces more, being more aware of them. I think that's not just in civil society and nonprofit space though I know that there's a lot of it. I think that's also in other spaces as well. But I think that uh, you know, every, every sector and every organization kind of has a perennial need to deal with some of these challenges. Speaker 2 00:37:05 Yeah, I think what remote brings to this is to do remote. Well you have to be so much more explicit and I think explicitness requires something of us that connects to intentionality and being rigorous and sort of the assumptions that we make about who we're working with and what they need. Um, and so I think there is this opportunity to do it better than in person <laugh> because you have to construct everything with such intention. Cool. Okay, so for people that are just nodding along and saying, I wanna work with Dave, how do I work with Dave, where should they find you? Speaker 1 00:37:38 I'm in too many places, like so many of us. Uh, the Twitter less so these days, but I'm on Mastodon, I'm on Medium, I'm on sub stack. The best place would actually just to be to go to al goso.org. It's my website, A l g o sso.org and you'll find links to those other places. You'll find some things that I've written. Some of it will sound like things that we just talked about. Some of that might not and and cuz our ideas evolve over time, but I'd love to hear from folks if something resonated with them. Especially if if they're in a kind of a space that I work in. But also if they're not, you know, there's so many similarities across the way that we think about doing our work better. Whether that's tech companies, civil society, churches, sports teams, like we all have things to learn from each other. So, which is one of the reasons I love, you know, your and my kind of networks overlap a bit but also disperse quite a lot, which is why this has been such a great conversation. Speaker 2 00:38:30 Yeah, well the feeling is mutual. Definitely Check out Dave's work. I have been following it for some time and it's always excellent and he is also got really good video series that he's been doing on strategy and sort of breaking down that word and the hype and jargon around it to try and make it a little bit more accessible to people that have been put off by all the ways that it's been exoticized <laugh> of late. But thanks so much Dave for coming on. This has been great and um, I will see soon. Speaker 0 00:38:56 Thanks a lot Alex.

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