Business Builders: Strategic Thinking, More Than You Might Think Part II: A Formula for Strategic Change

By: Mark Frasco
Business Builders: Strategic Thinking, More Than You Might Think Part II: A Formula for Strategic Change

So, how did you do? If you read my introduction, Business Builders on Strategic Architecture, you have built a framework for thinking about business growth in your organization.

As we discussed, putting together your strategic architecture isn’t the tough part. The challenge is navigating how we get that strategic architecture from a conceptual level and installed into your day to day operations. You must also face the challenge of overcoming resistance to change.

Change is defined as the “movement from the present state to a more desired future state.” And there is, in fact, a formula for overcoming resistance to strategic change within your organization. Based on research from the 1960s, Kathleen Dannemiller, while consulting at Ford Motor Company, was asked to help Ford move from a “command and control” leadership structure to one that featured more participation and shared responsibility. She began to refine a formula for organizational change.

But, before we dive into the formula, let’s talk about your strategic thinking process. To help you work on the formula, let’s bring together a diverse group of your best and brightest – we’ll call them the Vision Track. Gather people from different departments, seek various levels of tenure and personality styles – mix it up. In fact, your goal is to have the Vision Track be a microcosm of your larger organization. Optimally, this group should be 6-12 people. If your organization is about that size, invite everyone.

Now, we’re ready to talk about the formula to overcome resistance to strategic change. The formula Dannemiller used and later published was:


There must be some measure of three characteristics in the organization to overcome resistance to strategic change (R), the product in this formula.

Resistance (R)

Resistance to change is a positive piece of data. If we listen carefully, the resistance tells us what is needed to help people embrace strategic change.  

Dissatisfaction (D)

The dissatisfaction or frustration of one or two of your people is interesting, but not enough. We are looking for the important/few, the broadly shared dissatisfaction in the group.

Vision (V)

Likewise, we are looking for a broadly shared vision of the future that is ennobling and compelling. What vision of the future will make your people work smarter and longer in order to position the organization more strategically and successfully in the competitive landscape?

First Steps (F)

So many strategic growth efforts fail or get bogged-down from falling into long-term, BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) thinking. I’m not against the concept of stretch goals, but in order to create momentum in your system, I coach my clients to detail their plans for the next three months and four weeks. What are the first steps that will serve as traction, propelling you forward?

Hand-out a sheet with these questions (sample attached here), or write them on a white board, for each person on the Vision Track to answer independently:

  1. Look back over the last year: describe what made you proud about our strategic growth or position in the market.
  2. Likewise, describe what has been frustrating about our strategic growth or position in the market.
  3. Imagine that you have a magic wand, and tell what you would change to help us enjoy better strategic growth outcomes in the future.

Ask the Track to listen carefully to each report-out. Have them discuss the common themes across the stories. Capture the common themes on the board for all to see. Next, have them discuss what was unique in one person’s story that they want to capture on the board. Be sure that every person shares by going around the table.

Once you have the common themes and the unique comment or two on the board, have each Track member vote using check marks, asking the team to check only the important few ideas that will be most impactful as we think more deeply about strategic growth.

Your assignment: Using the framework above, determine your Vision Track and facilitate a one-hour session. Your result will be a list of strategic growth common themes, unique comments and assimilation of those ideas from the Track’s voting.

This short video will help bring it all together. It was prepared in the context of buyer/seller, but will broadly apply to our strategic change activity:

Look out for our upcoming article in the series, Business Builders: The Big V, Developing Your Strategic Growth Thrusts

This article was written by:

Mark Frasco
President & Founder
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