Change - Strategic Facilitation

by Tony Mann

‘Red’ and ‘green’ thinking and strategic facilitation

Whenever the principles explained in this topic are cascaded across an organisation, one of the concepts that managers should be taught is ‘red’ and ‘green’ thinking and the difference between the two. Somehow, by giving them colours, people recognise them as different and begin to realise that they are both important and both depend on each other. You cannot deploy strategic process without an appropriate change agenda and you need strategic process to tackle a difficult scenario (change agenda).

Understanding change agenda and strategic process

CHANGE AGENDA = what we want to achieve

(identified as ‘red’)

STRATEGIC PROCESS = how we go about achieving it

(identified ad ‘green’)

therefore there are

change agenda ‘plans’


strategic process ‘methods’

Symbiotic relationship

This symbiotic relationship between change agenda and strategic process is crucial if the organisation is to achieve effective outcomes. The change agenda needs to be clearly articulated and the strategic process needs to be designed and applied to ensure a good result.

Good strategic facilitators, who understand strategic process, will use the most appropriate strategic process model to tackle the change agenda. This ensures that it will be fit for purpose. It is a crime against good sense to bring in pieces of strategic process that have been used elsewhere, but which do not fit the change agenda, no matter how good they look or how much you may like them. Imagine our factory manager being offered pieces of machinery that had been used to make cars and being told to make bread with them!

The connection is shown in the diagram below, which shows the link between ‘red’ and ‘green’ thinking.


The diagram illustrates the sequence of developing a planned approach to a change agenda: as each change agenda (red) is identified, it is linked to strategic process (green). Note that strategic process is the combination of model/tools and format.

So from now on in this topic, reference will be made to ‘red’ and ‘green’ thinking. This leads to another principle. There needs to be clarity between the two – between red and green. Ideally, as in manufacturing, the two would run in parallel. However, in a manufacturing plant, the managers monitor the strategic process and that takes care of the production. In the management of change (production), however, the issues vary; they present themselves differently each time, and they require different applications of green thinking. This is where we get the concept of ‘strategic facilitation’. It is the strategic facilitator who monitors and oversees the strategic process, the green thinking. It is they who suggest strategic process and offer it to the organisation. In an organisation that was effective at managing change and delivering projects, the combination of red and green would be conceived and delivered very well.

Therefore, the strategic facilitator is a green person: they are concerned with selecting the strategic process to go with the change agenda. Managers and leaders can find it difficult to keep swapping from red to green thinking and often it is better, when there is a complex change scenario, to have someone who is committed to green thinking and focuses on that and that alone.

This leads us to the next principle – the strategic facilitator should not get involved in the red change agenda. They will, of course, consider it when they are proposing strategic process, but, as a principle, a strategic facilitator is there purely in a green capacity.



Their respective roles are therefore

change agenda plan


strategic process approach