Over a sandwich at a local shop the other day, a colleague asked why I care so much about the utility of the strategic narrative framework for ‘legacy’ institutions, which are historically successful, but have become overgrown, complex and challenged by changing circumstances.
“I have always thought that the most powerful achievements come from having to change course part-way through the journey. It’s very different from being a start-up and having the opportunity to build a narrative from the beginning. I admire and want to support the nuanced focus it takes to shift direction.”
I might be so passionate about mid-course transformation because it is also personal: In the past few years, I shifted from being the CEO of a global organization to starting my own consulting business, and have made changes in my personal life too. I feel I know something about the challenges and rewards that come from shifting course. And I’m writing this a few days before my birthday, which always makes me think about the past and renewal.
As with people, organizations cannot simply assume that their past successes will continue, because our environment is changing in many complex ways at once. They must think about how future conditions will shape success in new ways. Working through the strategic narrative process is about articulating the mechanics of renewal; the drama of a strategic narrative lies not in a distant vision of a thriving future, but in the difficult, but ultimately powerful work of getting there.
In Washington DC, where I live, the need for new strategic narratives is on display daily. It’s glaringly clear that approaches to governance that once worked are unreliable in the emerging technological and social conditions of our age. These conditions cannot simply be transcended through politics; we need systems that can behave in new ways.
It is also springtime here in Washington, and despite a late snowfall, the cherry blossoms and daffodils are blossoming. They are a lovely reminder of the relentless urge to renewal in all things.