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Ep 76: Strategic Teams & Development – A Conversation with Daniel Wolf

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Introduction: Daniel Wolf is the President of Dewar Sloan, a consultancy group with expertise in strategy & Governance. Daniel advises executives and governance leaders on the direction, integration, oversight and execution of strategy. He is the author Strategic Teams & Development, a field book for People Making Strategy Happen. He is also the author of several other books including, Prepared & Resolved, The Strategic Agenda for Growth, Performance and Change.


Podcast Episode Summary

This episode explores the value of making a clear and practical case for strategy as a team sport, with talent built for the intentions and challenges of the organisation. The raw ingredient or material for Strategic Teams is talent housed in what Daniel terms Talent Blocks and Beams. This podcast takes a deep dive into Daniels book and his wisdom about teams. 

Points made over the episode

  • Daniel has always enjoyed a curiosity and craving for different experiences in different companies to see him fashion a Strategic & Governance Consultancy Practice called Dewar Sloan. 
  • He works best as an organiser & designer of teams, as a Coach co-ordinator of teams and as a Provocateur of teams & Individuals 
  • As Provocateur he sees his role as helping others to step up to express their strengths and to engage with others in ways that might seem like conflict but are in fact catalysts for the work. 
  • The Gift/Pain trade-off of working with really difficult people is the value they can provide. The challenge is to sit in the discomfort long enough to appreciate the value this person might bring to a project and or to partition this person from the team is he/she is too destructive without having to “off board” them. 
  • The Rationale for writing this book came from appreciating what Strategy, Talent and Culture means for an organisation and how these three concepts hang together. 
  • Strategy is not something you do once a year or is a form of thinking 
  • Strategy is the whole body of thought and behaviour that surrounds the formation of strategy such as the direction, focus and choices a company wants to make, the integration effort this requires including thinking about all of the processes, systems, resources, capital, networks & people that enables a company deliver on its strategy and then to complete the execution or action and impact necessary to deliver. 
  • The Constraints and Disconnects with Strategy are many
  • Most companies have a strategic plan but it is a rare company where people can explain it. The complexity of all of the moving parts in an integration plan means acceptance of the realisation that there is never being enough. Organisations are dynamic and complex, resources are never complete. 
  • Organisations are remarkably blithe about holding people to account for execution. 
  • Talent blocks and beams are the raw material for Strategic Teams and Development. Many of us can quickly identify the six intelligences/capacities that comprise the talent blocks, technical, analytic, creative, resource, problem and relational. 
  • The beams are, what are often considered the biggest complaints made by organisations of their people, he soft skills they see lacking. 
  • Talent Beams include Individual Talent Beams such as self-awareness, contentment, character, self-governance, confidence, moral compass, resilience, motivation and attention 
  • Team Beam Development alludes to social intelligence, role awareness, maze sense, influence, perspective, engagement, conflict management and context appreciation 
  • These talent blocks and beams ask of an organisation to recognise the details of their talent in the blocks they have available, the significance and context of where the beams need to be developed.
  • Culture is two things. It is the companies foundation and principles that guide everyday thought and behaviour and it is the companies expression of these foundations and principles , where people come together to learn, engage, develop and grow and advance together the principles and foundations of the company to deliver on its strategic agenda. 
  • The book is about three things; The Strategic Agenda that makes sense to people, the talent blocks and beams that fit with the strategic agenda and the culture built on foundations & principles that are routinely and truly acted out in micro expressions of thought and behaviour daily. 
  • This synchronicity is denied by the lack of a leadership mentality. There are four levels of Leadership. Individual, Group or Team, Enterprise and Social or Systemic. 
  • What gets in the way of Group or Team Leadership is the old premise that Leadership is housed in one heroic leader. A new form of thinking about leadership would have leadership taken up in different roles, formal and informal by the team. A collective effort is harnessed when everyone assumes leadership for the well-being of the team. 
  • Mindsets that could be missing to make this symphony work; one where people forget the dynamic and complexity of organisations today. A mindset that is not ready for change, is not anticipating change or accepting the ubiquitous nature of change. An expectant mindset is needed. Similarly while much is said of resilience, a mindset of resilience is the notion that as a principle we are engaged, steadfast and resolute to persevere & be flexible.
  • Organisations have 10 or more needs and two stand out for Daniel in this conversation. One is the need for organisations to have a very active developmental laboratory for talent, individual and collective. The second is the idea that organisations need to think differently about their structure. They should embrace the idea of an eco-system of teams rather than the traditional vertical model of layers and spans of control with white space in between, that is the traditional organisational chart. 
  • This latter need suggests that an organisation would have to dissemble the traditional constructs of organisational life, the innovators dilemma, and prize a system comprising talent housed in teams. It would also have to acknowledge and mine three different Leadership temperaments, Compliance, Integrator and Discoverer. 
  • This thinking unnerves organisations and it is where opportunity lies. 

Resources shared 

      • Daniel Wolf; Strategic Teams and Development 
      • Prepared and Resolved as well as The Strategic Agenda for Growth, Performance and Change. 
      • The Innovators Dilemma, by Clayton. M Christensen
      • Mindset by Carol S. Dweck 

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