No project is typical, but there are five general steps that guide a lot of our work:
Grounding & Preparation
There are two key aspects to the first phase of a project: to deeply understand what you already know, and to finalize the approach and to confirm timing, responsibilities and budgeting.
Project grounding is where we climb your learning curve. This step includes a thorough review of all available background information, in-depth discussions with the project team and others inside the organization. Part of the success of a project is simply reading everything that is available. And we do mean everything. Often we are the only ones who have read it all. This is a powerful foundation that allows us to prepare for the rest of the project.
With our new and deeper understanding of the situation, we then confirm the project plan. We may make recommendations to revise our initial proposal, and we will finalize timing, mutual responsibilities and final budgets. This preparation is what enables us to never miss a deadline and never go over budget.
A discovery process is fairly straightforward. It uses a variety of information gathering tools, including qualitative research, quantitative research, expert interviews, best practices studies… the normal consulting toolbox.
It is the generative aspect that sets Stormy Lake apart. Generative discovery is about the principles of dialogue over the principles of debate. We strive to deeply understand the many different issues and perspectives. We constantly dig far past what is said, or what is going to, to learn and understand why those perspectives or issues really exist.
Our generative discovery process has a few core principles:
- We connect at a deeper level, become comfortable with being wrong, and searching for new ideas.
- We find value in what everyone thinks, it all adds our view of the situation.
- We see value in more than one idea or insight simultaneously. No one idea is the reason change occurs and the richness of the diversity requires that think in diverse terms.
- We integrate existing thought to generate new ideas
- We find the nuances and simplicity that often lie at the heart of complex problems.
- We have learned that the most important parts of any project are those that none of us could have imagined before starting.
Once we have the volumes of volumes of insights and perspectives, we have to make sense of it all. This is the “black box” of our process.
Sense-making is the foundation of problem-solving, strategic planning, innovation, change-management and communications – everything that we do in the Planning and Executive phases. The sense-making process requires deep thinking, collaboration, analysis, dialogue, understanding and time. We have also found that the general application of common sense is highly recommended.
We bring our team together, all of us having looked at the project from different perspectives and we deeply dialogue – building on each ideas, finding relationships between the relationships and giving meaning to the insights. It is a powerful and exhilarating process.
We are not surprised when 80% of what we learn already is known intuitively by our client. The tremendous value comes from the last 20%, and how we put the insights together in new and more meaningful ways.
Another critical component of sense-making is realizing that most consultant reports don’t get read. Oh yes, maybe one or two people read our carefully considered words, but that is all. What changes our clients is the story that is told. A story rooted in many different truths that makes sense of and gives meaning to the complex situation. This new and truthful story is what inspires change.
Once we make sense of the situation, we will give you the grounded, well-researched report, and we will also give you the story that makes sense of the situation, and makes what you need to do simple, clear and compelling.
If consultants fail in one fundamental way, it is that their reports may be smart, but their plans cannot be implemented in the real world.
We live in fear of being this kind of consultant. All of the hard work to this point of the project is useless, absolutely useless, if it cannot be implemented practically and easily.
Stormy Lake has over thirty years of hands-on, get it to market experience. Not just planning, but implementing and solving organizational and market issues, while maintaining the integrity of strategic vision.
We give you a grounded set of specific actionable recommendations – from quick wins to long-term transformational initiatives. Every single on of them is relevant, actionable and strategically grounded. And because of the hard work and sense-making, many recommendations are unexpected and surprisingly low cost.
Planning also is a critical moment where ownership of the strategy needs to move from us to you. We need to empower you to deeply understand, own and execute the strategy. This is where the strategic story has tremendous value. It is easily understood, and makes it clear how you need to proceed.
The planning phase concludes with the Action Report, our final deliverable on the project. With this document you are fully enabled and equipped to leap into action.
We bring a careful balance to execution. On the one hand, we cannot be vested in a specific solution, so we do no execution ourselves. This ensures there is no conflict of interest and we can ruthlessly focus on what is right for the problem.
Conversely, we need to enable and empower our clients to execute. And that is where our tremendous training, coaching and facilitation tools come in. we work with management teams to project teams. We ensure that the plans that are developed survive the pressures and constraints of execution intact.
We deliver execution to our clients in a few different ways:
- Once we have completed a project, we are a resource to you for as long as we can help you. All it takes is a quick phone call or e-mail (and maybe a bit of time to refresh our project memory if it has been a few years). We also will provide a full briefing to any communications suppliers or agencies that you might engage.
- We can design and deliver effective, hands-on, real-situation training programs based on your business and your team skills. from planning to execution.
Coaching and Facilitation
- We work with executive teams and department executive through coaching and facilitation to help sustain transformation over time. Always focused on giving you the skills and knowledge to be self-sufficient.