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3 tenets of the new business agenda Back to search
Number: Three Download as PDF
Author: Gratton  
Theme: Change and change management  

Gratton argues that if people really are our greatest assets then it is time to build strategies that create organisations that people can live in.  Her aim is to put the human in human capital.  This is achieved by putting the human resources at the centre of organisational strategic decision-making.  

Strategies need to have meaning and purpose for people without whose commitment platitudes and lip-service hold sway and nothing really changes.  Gratton calls Living Strategy the new agenda for business where financial and technological assets are less critical as a source of sustainable competitive advantage, and the emphasis begins to fall on the value of real human capital.

Gratton argues that there are three characteristics that make human capital different from other forms of capital. They are:

1. We operate in time with the past, the present and the future and there are phases, sequences of time and rhythms which are essentially human experienced both as the stages of the human life cycle, and also the dynamic interplay of memories, the felt present, and our dreams and hopes.

2. We search for meaning. We strive to create meaning and to understand the world about us. According to Gratton, one of the greatest challenges in organisational life is to create cues and processes that are mutually aligned and coherent with the goals of the business.

3. We have a soul. We are not machines that are programmed to deliver but are emotional beings that can decide to commit or to withdraw, support or undermine, excel or coast. Hopes and fears, laughter and sadness, dreams and expectations all influence how we function in an organisation as in every other aspect of life.

All too often, organisational leaders behave and seek to introduce change in complete disregard, or failure to understand, the significance of the three tenets.

For each of the three tenets there are three capabilities:

9 organisational and managerial capabilities of the new agenda 

Tenet 1 We operate in time

1. Visioning capability: This requires rich and inclusive dialogues about the future that is meaningful and exhilarating for people across the organisation

2. Scanning capability: A broad, shared understanding of what the future may bring, in terms of key trends

3. Strategic capability: The development of clearly articulated steps which bridge the present to the future

Tenet 2 We search for meaning

4. Diagnostic capability: How meaning is created in organisations and the role of alignment and re-adjustment processes and practices

5. Systemic capability: use of systemic thinking to view the organisation as complex and dynamic system in which shared meaning is created

6. Adaptive capability: Building on the history of meaning in the organisation with creativity and adaptation

Tenet 3 We have soul 

7. Emotional capability: Creation of measures which accurately and systematically reflect the emotional health of the organisation

8. Trust-building capability: Understanding and building fair practices

9. Building the psychological contract: Clarity in the relationship between the organisation and individual members as an integral part of creating trust

Having established the philosophy, Gratton describes
6 steps that bridge philosophy to action:

1. Building a guiding coalition
2. Imagining the future
3. Understanding current capability, and the gap
4. Mapping the system
5. Modelling the dynamics
6. Bridging into action

For each of these steps Gratton offers guiding principles, powerful tools and techniques, and above all her passionate belief, based in part on her extensive research with the Leading Edge Consortium of progressive companies at the London Business School, but also her strongly held personal values.

This book is inspiring, practical and powerful. She tells us not only that the journey is worth taking but also how to undertake it. In my view, a remarkable book. 

Source: Gratton, L. (2000) Living Strategy: Putting people at the Heart of Corporate purpose. Financial Times- Prentice Hall

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