Leadership: Putting strategy back into human interaction

We spend a lot of time talking about leadership where we think of it as getting people to do something through some form of incentive or disincentive. Simply churning and burning our way to action through carrots and sticks though is not a strategic form of leadership. At the most we get a form of liquid interaction that doesn’t produce solid results. Success oozing through the cracks of leadership is more than simple chance and less than lethargic. To have a strategic level of engagement we need to have a common frame of reference. Getting people to share a common vision frames future reference and understanding of goals.

Even though we use the same language, or share some cultural foundation. Words are ripped apart by implied meanings driven by priorities and resources. Concepts that seem simple and shared may be different and disparate to the participants. As an example the tension between information technology in the enterprise where getting things to work is a challenge. A tension is supplied when the information security team tries to keep something from being exploited. Words like risk have completely different meanings to these constituencies. Setting common groundwork helps to dampen internal biases.

There is the continuum between the acute injury and chronic pain. There is also the continuum between the normal managerial activities and strategic change. Day to day an information enterprise or manufacturing job must simply be completed. However, there is also a need to be looking over the horizon of today and understanding how simple task and time changes today affect the results past the horizon.

A simplistic example of acute versus chronic from manufacturing is taking one less turn on a screw might remove 10 seconds of manufacturing time allowing for increased throughput at less cost. Throughput might increase 30% or more while defect rate because of improper loading on the screw increases 50%. In information assurance and security we see this same short cut applied in security assessments and about anything considered a compliance function. Creating and understanding of causal links between actions and results is fundamental to communicating strategic leadership.

Would you be willing to reward somebody for bringing the manufacturing problem forward as a suggestion? If increasing manufacturing time by 30% decreased you defective rate by half is it worth it? The industrial engineers want to know the output, the input, and the various elements of math that allow for a statistical assessment that can be quantified. However, do you really need to know that? If you are thinking strategically you are applying a context that is outside of the operational paradigm of bean counting. You are looking for a vision that is within your mission perspective.

The way you answer the question on whether you would reward an employee is important to being able to communicate a strategic perspective to your employees. We are less interested in the stakeholders who might hold the purse strings because their context is already strategic. When applying leadership towards a human context it is about coordinating and garnering cognitive, intellectual and realized support from all participants. Leadership of strategy requires positioning yourself and your organization so that each action is understood through a lens of results. Understanding the actual incentives you apply for the perceived incentives of people determines success.

Where you may think you impel a change or particular behavior you may actually realize a different result. That difference between desired and result can often be traced back to the communication strategy. The interaction model of email, blogging, vlogging, or meeting in person completely changes the context and results. Leadership demands a human to human interaction component. Without human interaction there is randomness injected into the process.

We’ve begun a process of change where the denial and absence of human interaction has disrupted organizational flow and results. Leadership requires strategy which requires human interaction. Therefore we default to putting strategy into human interaction if we want to provide leadership and our best results.

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