I was listening to a podcast episode on 99% Invisible hosted by the inimitable Roman Mars and they were talking about Stroads, which piqued my curiousity.
So, today, we will explore this topic but from a leadership lens. Before we go ahead, I think it makes sense for us to define each one of these terms and what it means.
A road is defined as a medium to move vehicles (cars, trucks, etc) from one point to another as quickly as possible. By this definition, all your highways and express ways are all roads.
Street is a medium to increase interactions between people that could potentially lead to wealth generation. The focus is on creating possibilities for interaction that could lead to commerce. These are markets areas, sometimes even vehicle free zones or places where we can find roadside stalls. You bump into people more than you bump into vehicles.
When you combine both the aspects of roads and streets, you get Stroads. These are roads which also try to increase commercial interactions. This is when, there is a mall being developed on the sides of a road. In my experience, this when you bump into more vehicles than people.
You may be wondering what has this got to do with leadership. I believe that this has a big relevance for leadership in the following ways:
Running our meetings:
Many times, we are not explicit or clear on the purpose of our meetings. Do we want to organise a meeting to make decisions or engage in deliberations / discussions.
Being explicitly clear about what the intention of a meeting allows us to design the meeting agenda in a way that can significantly improve the results we want to achieve through the meeting.
Since we spend a lot of time in meetings at work, anything that we can do to improve the effectiveness of this time we spend in meetings can have a significant impact on our overall effectiveness.
I have seen most organisations get this wrong. There are times when our customers want speed and there are times when they need engagement. If we are able to understand when they need what allows us to design our interaction with them for that specific purpose in way that that they want.
Let’s take for example a customer wants to raise a complaint. They need to dial into our customer service hotline to do that. Do you think they would prefer a road (speed) or a street (engagement) or a stroad (hybrid of both)? Is your current interaction a road or a street or a stroad?
Another example is when a customer wants to buy a product or a service and wants to know more about the same. Would they prefer a road (speed) or a street (engagement) or a stroad (self-service and an employee to engage with, when and if needed)? Is your current interaction aligned to that?
The same thing could be to think about how we interact with our partners, vendors, employees. If we align the interactions (or in other words – processes) to the way they would prefer, overall effectiveness of these interactions goes up significantly.
Thinking and Execution / Delivery
This is going a bit meta. Are we explicit about our intention on what / how we think and how and when we deliver?
Assuming that delivery is like roads (we want speed of execution) and thinking is more like a street (we want to be slow, deliberate and allow for ideas to interact to encourage creativity), we can improve our own effectiveness as a leader by being intentional about whether we want to be driving on a road or walking along a street.
Dividing time on our calendars that are dedicated to delivery and thinking can allow us to be effective at both.
In conclusion, I would like to just share that being intentional about how we want to think, deliver or engage always leads to better outcomes. This analogy or a road, street or a stroad simplifies and gives a common shared language for your team to use when talking about these intentions.
BTW, if you are curious about the stroads, you can watch a TEDx Video in which the American civil engineer and urban planner (Charles Marohnwe) who coined this word more than a decade ago shares his perspectives here.