Leaders need tools (See: ASTD Workforce Development Blog). Just as a carpenter wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, saw, hammer, and screwdriver, a leader shouldn’t try to build an organization without the methods and processes that facilitate organizational learning and change.
A useful strategic leadership tool could be an assessment instrument, a visioning process, a strategic planning map, decision-making steps, a feedback structure, or any aid that helps a leader facilitate improvement of individual, team, and organizational performance. Of course, it's not the tool but how it is used that makes the difference.
By using strategic leadership tools effectively, organizations benefit in at least seven ways:
- Employee attention is focused on the same strategic task; their priorities become less scattered and diffused which increases the likelihood that you will get the best thinking
- Everyone is clear about the beginning and end to the task as defined by the tool; they are not wasting energy on figuring out where to start and when to end
- Participation and interaction increases as everyone’s Ideas and solutions are made visible through the structure
- Stakeholders are all using the same language in doing the work; terms are defined within the context of the tool which promotes understanding
- The task is no longer personal; it’s about following the tool’s process to achieve organizational success; it's not about any one person’s agenda
- People who need a lot of structure in order to feel comfortable, have structure
- People who need permission to be open and honest, have it; the structured process gives them that permission
It’s not that you can’t find tools in organizations. The problem is that usually they are owned by HR, or Training, or Quality Control, or some other department and are not used for learning and change by management. We need to get these tools into the hands of leaders so that the entire organization can benefit.