5 Strategies for Teamwork at the Edge

Today’s guest post is from Dennis N.T. Perkins, author of Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race, CEO of Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders and teams thrive under conditions of adversity, uncertainty, and change. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, he successfully completed his first Sydney Hobart Race in 2006.

Dennis PerkinsImagine navigating a tiny boat through a sudden, violent storm at sea — with winds roaring at nearly 100 mph and waves soaring to 80 feet — to not only survive, but triumph over formidable competitors in one of the world’s toughest ocean races. Continue reading


Musings on strategic planning and thinking

The committee chair’s presentation was spectacular - a succinct yet thoughtful description of the committee’s vision, what it needed to accomplish over the next two years, why such results were needed, what other groups with a similar mission were doing, and a handful of very high-level actions, some innovative and some not, required to produce the desired outcomes.

Wow, went my brain, she totally nailed the strategic direction, a broad view coupled with just the right amount of high-level specifics.

A gentleman at our table reached a totally different conclusion as he quietly muttered to no one in particular, “What I want to know is where did they find this tactical bozo.”

“Why do you say that?” I whispered in his direction.

“If you have to ask, then you don’t understand strategic planning either,” came the dismissive reply, as the gentleman shook his head and stood up to leave.

Not wanting to spend too long in the bozo corner yet wanting to challenge my own reasoning, I researched definitions, finding lots of fascinating information (that reshaped some of my thinking about the differences, similarities and outcomes of strategy work):


  • (Wikipedia):  ”a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal.”
  • (Exploring Corporate Strategy by Gerry Johnson): ”…is the direction and scope of an organization over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organization through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfill stakeholder expectations”.

Strategic Planning

  • (Wikipedia): ”an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people.”
  • (Henry Mintzberg, Professor of Management, McGill University): “…at it has been practiced, has really been strategic programming, the articulation and elaboration of strategies or visions, that already exist.”

Strategic Thinking

  • (Rich Horwath, Professor of Strategy,Lake Forest Graduate School of Business): the “generation and application of business insights on a continual basis to achieve competitive advantage.”
  • (Henry Mintzberg): “…is about synthesis. It involves intuition and creativity. The outcome of strategic thinking is an integrated perspective of the enterprise, a not-too-precisely articulated vision of direction.”

Strategic Management

  • (Wikipedia): the “conduct of drafting, implementing and evaluating cross-functional decisions that will enable an organization to achieve its long-term objectives.”

A concept that resonated for me came from Fiona Graetz in which she distinguished strategic planning from thinking using divergent and convergent processes:

…a capacity for innovative, divergent strategic thinking rather than conservative, convergent strategic planning is seen as central to creating and sustaining competitive advantage

My take-aways: 

  • help leaders create flexible structure and process so strategic action plans can be operationalized, while
  • maintaining openness of thought and creativity to shift with changes or even before changes occur

What’s your take?