When I first starting my Strategy 2 Execution Blog, where were no other ways to start a broad based discussion on key issues on the subject. Twitter was an unknown and Linkedin was a place to connect with business colleagues. There was a relatively low usage area of linked in where you could ask questions of experts and get what to me seemed good answers from actual experts. Since that time, Linkedin has grown mightily in popularity and functionality. One of the biggest areas of change is the Group section. There are new groups being formed every day. As a individual interested in strategy, strategy execution and Enterprise Architecture, there are many groups that I can join.

What happens within those Groups? Only once have I ‘met’ with the group. The moderator set up a toll free number to set up an ‘experiment’ to see if he could generate a live dialogue. It was interesting to join and see that there was a series of call-ins from those who seemed to post most frequently. This serial dial-in rather than everyone at the same time, changed the call into a serial set of introductions, with not enough people online to create anything that looked like dialogue.

When I first started, a few people in the group might pose a question to the group that looked liked a call for help or insight to help them through what must be an issue that they were trying to solve for a client or to help them develop their business, mostly management consultants or people in strategy roles in corporations. It seemed that the number of answers were in the 5 to 10 range, before either the helpers completed their ‘help’ or the topic was covered with what were reasonable answers.

All that has changed. Now there are many questions being posted per group on an daily basis. That sounds like a normal progression, except when you see that many of the questions are raised by the same people. That is, there is now a group of people who;

  • Seem to wake up each morning full of unanswered questions
  • Find their questions are not solvable via old methods of calling up close colleagues, doing research or reading a book on the subject.

For a while I thought I’d help those individuals with my experience and answer their questions, but I ran into;

The Wylam challenge.

Wylam, pronounced Why-lam, was my eight year old neighbor in Don Mills a suburb in Toronto in the 1960’s. We had a skating rink in our backyard and he was one of the few little boys who was tough enough to play hockey with the perpetual game that was going on in our backyard. As often as he’d get knocked down in the course of play, he never seemed to cry, just grit his teeth, brush the snow off his pants and get back into the game. I was about 14 or 15 at the time and since Wylam lived next door, he’d often hang around after the game or during lunch time. There was lots of opportunity to talk while clearing the ice or having a hot chocolate or at the end of the game. This is how Whylam and I found time to talk. That seems even to today a fairly rare thing. An eight year old and 15 year old spending time talking. What was interesting about our talks what that they all started with Whylam saying, ….”Hey Ron,.. Why……” He had the most amazing curiosity about everything. “Why does ice freeze?, Why is your scarf blue? Why doesn’t Jack wear mittens?, Why…..” Sometimes, Whylam was so curious with so many questions, all he could do is say “Hey Ron,………WHY!” To me, at 15, he was an amazing guy. If you can imagine the Three Stooges frequently played out scene where all three stooges rush to get out of the door together they all get stuck in the door frame. That’s how I imagined all the questions that were in Whylams mind. They were all rushing to get out of his mouth at the same time, and instead of each coming out one by one, sometimes they all got stuck coming out at the same time, and all that squeaked out was …. “WHY?” His eyes would get incredibly big and round when this would happen and somehow, I could just understand that at this time in his life everything was a mystery that a fifteen year old neighbor might be able to answer. Since we had formed this bond, it seemed like he could trust me not to make fun of him, but to try to give a reasonable 15 year old’s best answer. My parents, brother and sister marveled at his curiosity, and over time his name, Whylam, inside our house changed pronunciation to have a longer ‘Why’, and a shorter ‘lam’ as we pronounce his name. The door bell would ring and my brother John would call out, “Hey Ron, Whyyyyyy-lam wants to know if you can come out and play hockey with him.”

Here’s where we get back to LinkedIn. Whylam was genuinely curious. His life was absolutely full of mysteries that he wanted to solve. He didn’t ask them in front of his friends or family and it was my impression that he actually cared deeply about what my answer was. I have had another neighbor over the years, who continuously asked why I’m doing xxxx, but I have the distinct impression, that it is just to know the reason I’m doing x and that the answer goes out of their head the second that it is clear that the reason doesn’t affect them or something they can tell other people about what I’m doing.  Strategy Execution is ultimately about answering key questions for stakeholders. Each has their own set of questions. Strategies address complexity and help provide the answers that aim all parts of the organization towards targeted outcomes.