During an Oval Mapping Workshop, participants are encouraged to write down their ideas, assumptions, opinions, issues, facts and assertions regarding the strategic direction of the business onto ovals and post them on a wall.
We use various tools and techniques to encourage the participants to post statements, to review the statements posted by others and to elaborate on the topics that have been raised. This allows them to see and comment on the thoughts of others in a non-threatening way. This starts the process of building consensus within the team.
We then work with the participants to group the statements into clusters of related subject matter (for example, marketing, finance operations, etc.). This continues the consensus building process by allowing people to further review the statements and clarify their meaning, ensuring that they are contextually accurate. The fact that they are working on what has been said rather than who said it helps to break down inter-personal barriers and encourages an open dialogue.
The final, and most important, step in the process is to link the various statements together using arrows that represent a cause and effect relationship. This process creates what is called a causal map which is subsequently entered into our computer software for subsequent analysis and reporting.
This final step is where the ‘magic’ happens as we literally link the thoughts and opinions of different people in a very subtle way that completes the consensus building process and uncovers information about the group’s (rather than the individual’s) ideas, concerns and aspirations for the business.
When focusing on how statements link together we are effectively linking peoples thoughts in a subtle but very effective way. This, along with the other phases of the process gradually builds consensus among the participants about future of the organisation and how to get there.
The level of consensus that is built during the strategy creation process becomes very important when implementing the strategy and business plan. This is because when people in the organisation are committed to the organisation’s strategic direction and the steps required to achieve its vision, it is much more likely to succeed.