Change - Strategic Facilitation

by Tony Mann

Using the Process Iceberg® Organisation model

This model is the core of the strategic facilitation process. It provides the framework for analysing organisational problems, implementing strategy and aligning different parts of the organisation.

The model should be used at any stage when it becomes apparent that

  • There are organisational issues that need to be explored
  • When the organisation intends to implement a strategy across the business.

Implementing strategy

The model is hierarchical, sequential and interdependent:

  • When implementing strategy or change, it is important to start at the top and work down through the different levels of the Process Iceberg®
  • When tackling organisational issues, it is important to start at the bottom and work upwards through the levels.


How to apply

  1. The strategic facilitator should first explain the Process Iceberg® model to the SMT; illustrate (using appropriate examples) how it works, and demonstrate its validity.


  1. The initial workshop should then
  • Identify key drivers (see here) key driver model – stage 2b – defining the strategic scope/focus of the organisation
  • Review existing business goals (EBGs)
  • Develop new business goals (NBGs)
  • Audit them against the business criteria.

In this workshop, the emphasis should be on determining the capabilities needed to implement the goals.

  1. Get the SMT to display the EBGs and NBGs on a large A0 version of the Process Iceberg® on the wall.


  1. Depending on the process awareness of the organisation and its size, the strategic facilitator should invite the management team/group to work on each of the NBGs and EBGs and identify the capabilities that need to be in place in order to deliver the goals.

The first level of capabilities is the structure and the high-level processes that will support the achievement of the goals. Invariably there will be processes already in place and the organisation needs to be careful not to assume that the existing processes will be appropriate or sufficient to support the goals.

This workshop is not necessarily the time and place to look in detail at the high-level processes and systems; instead, these should become distinct projects as part of Business Process Management.




The Post-Its™ sizes are only illustrative and will in reality be much larger to enable the group to write as much detail as required.

The strategic facilitator should listen very carefully to the group and any indication that the existing structure is inadequate/inappropriate should be highlighted/noted. Changes to the structure can include such things as a move to outsourcing, franchising, setting up a separate entity, establishing a new department. Each of these is a significant strategic change and yet the strategic facilitator must not let the organisation shy away from difficult issues of implementation.

  1. Next, the strategic facilitator should invite the organisation to examine the systems and processes that will support the high-level processes (such as KPIs, quality systems, budget systems, recruitment).


The strategic facilitator should either use the all to one format or get the organisation to work in groups. The strategic facilitator should be alert to the organisation ‘rubber stamping’ existing systems and be ready to challenge the organisation if they hear any suggestion that the existing systems need updating or revising to meet the challenge of the NBGs.

  1. The SMT/organisation should then look at the Roles, Skills, Attributes and Knowledge (RSAKs) needed by the organisation as part of delivering the business goals. The SMT/organisation should again look at this in a general sense.



The aim is not to undertake a detailed SAKs audit or training needs analysis, this will become a project in itself.

Throughout, the strategic facilitator should work with the SMT/organisation and identify the projects to implement the capabilities. To do this the strategic facilitator should use an action plan.


The projects will ideally be hierarchical – exploring the implementation of high-level processes together with its systems and processes. Normally the RSAKs will be a separate project across the organisation or in distinct areas (such as departments/functions).

Icebergs within icebergs

In a similar way, it is imperative that each iceberg within a hierarchy of icebergs is linked and has objectives, processes and systems that are aligned to those of the organisation (see diagram below). Each department’s objectives must align with the corporate strategic focus and goals. The processes must flow throughout the organisation and the systems must be coherent throughout the organisation. To ensure that this becomes a reality, the strategic facilitator will need to embed this in the cascade process.


A chemical manufacturing company couldn’t recruit enough PhD Chemists to ensure continuity and succession planning. They examined the strategic focus and deemed that it was appropriate. They looked at the recruitment and hiring process and decided that it was best practice. They looked at all the (recruitment) systems and decided that they were adequate and suitable to attract graduates. They even reviewed the skills and knowledge of the HR staff who were involved in recruitment and found that, with minor exceptions, they were effective. So what was the problem?

They discovered, after some research, that the vast majority of (good quality) PhD chemists were being ‘syphoned off’ by the banks and investment firms.

It was something ‘outside their Iceberg’.

To combat it they set about creating a new process of developing materials and resources for teachers (in schools) to help ferment children’s interest in science so as to grow the number of potential university science entrants. Meanwhile they lobbied the Science Minister (of the time) and managed to get students who studied science at university additional funding and grants.

The projects will ideally be hierarchical – exploring the implementation of high-level processes together with its systems and processes. Normally the RSAKs will be a separate project across the organisation or in distinct areas. This will involve a series of workshops with individual departments/process owners to cascade the implementation and ensure that there is coherence between the strategic focus/goals and departmental objectives, so that the icebergs within the organisation all conform to the organisational iceberg and there is no inconsistency.


Examining where an issue lies

If there is an issue that cannot be resolved in, for example, the department iceberg, then the strategic facilitator should help examine whether the issue lies outside that iceberg in a higher one (for example, organisation or corporate).

To do this, the strategic facilitator helps the group to map the issue on a series of icebergs, plotting the cause in the most appropriate iceberg and at the appropriate level (see diagram below).


Similarly, it is important that the strategic facilitator acknowledges and brings to the surface any comment from the organisation (or an individual) that suggests that the issue is outside the current set of icebergs (see below). Each department’s objectives must align with the corporate strategic goals. The structure must relate to the corporate norm and the systems must be coherent throughout the organisation.


The strategic facilitator should pay particular attention when humour is used to deflect attention from a serious issue or when someone wants to make a serious point, but doesn’t want to be ridiculed by their colleagues. This is most likely to happen in a dysfunctional culture.



Comments that suggest that the organisation can’t resolve the issue themselves will indicate that the issue is outside the current set of icebergs and this will need to be drawn to the attention of more senior management or, in some cases, by an industry body. For instance, there is a campaign being run by business lobby groups (such as the CBI) in the UK to encourage politicians to sanction the building of a third runway at Heathrow to ensure that the UK and London remain a key hub for international businesses. No amount of changes to structure or high-level processes will overcome the lack of infrastructure at a national level.