Applying Innovative Thinking in Strategic Planning

InnovationStrategic planning, as a structured and systematic process, is successful when it is leader-led and overcomes the five reasons 70% of all strategies fail.  Learn how to see your plan through to success.  The strategic planning process is where leaders of an organization establish the vision of the organization’s future and then develop and implement the actions necessary to achieve that future.  This article expands on the strategic planning concepts addressed in Think Big, Take Small Steps and is designed to help you achieve success in your strategic planning process.

“There is No Box” When it Comes to Strategic Planning.

Have you ever read the book, “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There?”  Basically, the premise of that book is that your current actions and thinking that have moved you to where you are today, will not be the same actions and thoughts you will need to get you to where you want to go in the future.  Thus, in strategic planning, doing things and thinking the same way won’t help you achieve your vision.

Everything up to this point in the How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment section of my Think Big, Take Small Steps blog has been designed to feed new thoughts for leaders to consider when designing a new strategy.  Let’s review the topics over the last several weeks and see how they are feeding new and innovative thought processes when it comes to strategic planning:

All of these different blogs were designed to spur innovative thought around the strategic planning process–specifically when assessing an organization.  In my first blog, I said, “If a plan lacks focus on fixing organizational problems and overcoming barriers to the organization’s vision it is not built on the realities of the environment impacting the organization.”  A complete and proper organizational assessment is the first of five ways to ensure your strategic plan will be successful.

However, the last seven blogs have really been focused on the as-is organization–what’s currently going on.  Aside from the Opportunities and Threats parts of the SWOT, we’ve done little to think about the future environment.  Now is the time, before you bring leaders into a room to facilitate strategic discussion, you need to think outside the box about what the future could look like.

In this case, I’m recommending you throw away the box!

In the next phase of strategic planning, you’re going to bring leaders into an offsite (or onsite if that works for you) and you want to be as prepared as possible for that event.  Thus, you want to do some future vision thinking of your own prior to that event.  Leaders have limited time and many of them don’t designate a lot of their time to strategic thought anyway (it’s a fact of life).  So, make sure you are fully armed when they walk into that room.

This is how you provide some innovative thought to the organizational assessment.

  1. Sit down with your newly created SWOT Assessment–specifically the TIPSs that I explained in my previous blog.  If you have a small team helping you, then you can do this as a brainstorming session.  Write one of the TIPS on the top of a piece of paper–butcher block if you are brainstorming as a group.
  2. Spend 30 minutes simply writing down any ideas that come to mind around how you would leverage and/or solve to that TIPS.
  3. After 30 minutes, reread the ideas and look for a possible thread of reasoning that could be formulated into an objective for an organization.  Write that down at the bottom of the page.
  4. Move onto the next TIPS and continue until you have gone through every TIPS in a similar manner.
  5. Then transcribe the single threads down on a separate sheet and look for ways these support each other or can be combined.  Write down your final thoughts.

This idea generation is very helpful for you to plan out your strategic planning session.  If you find some big problem or challenge that the organization needs to come to grips with that comes out of this exercise, then you can appropriately plan your offsite to address it.

For example, I have worked with a few organizations that have issues with properly defined roles and responsibilities.  In order to better understand the issue the organization was faced with, I planned, in a specific session, the listing out of roles and responsibilities, doing a RACI diagram, or other similar type sessions.

You might also discover through your envisioning that the leadership, or the organization as a whole, needs more education on something critical to the success of your strategic plan.  This could lead you to hold some type of just-in-time training event or exercise or to bring in a specific guest speaker to enlighten the leadership.

What if you discovered that the leadership team itself is dysfunctional?  This would feed the need to hold some type of team building event in correlation with the strategic planning session.  This could even drive the location of the offsite.  You might use some type of personality assessment tool (e.g., Meyers Briggs) with the leadership team to get them to think better about how to work together.

Perhaps you have stumbled across a whole new opportunity for the organization that the leadership hasn’t even realized.  You might want to plan a tour prior to the strategic planning offsite to expose the leaders to this opportunity to get them thinking about it.

The purpose of providing this line of innovative thought prior to the strategic planning event is to ensure you get the most value out of the event itself.  I’ve worked with a leadership team that didn’t even understand what strategic planning was.  The first thing we did was an awareness session on strategic planning.  I’ve also worked with an organization whose key leader really liked the book, “Good to Great.”  So, we had all the leaders on the team read the book and we held sessions where different leaders facilitated discussion sessions around concepts from the book.

Don’t think about strategic planning as simply bringing leaders into a conference room and coming up with a mission and vision statement.  Strategic Planning is a thoughtful activity that leaders embark on to understand their as-is, envision the to-be, and develop new ideas to get there.  Doing the same thing that they’re doing today won’t get them there.  Your job in the organizational assessment phase is to ensure the right thoughts are occurring during the time you have all the leaders gathered together to think and act strategically.

So, 70% of all plans fail to some level; however, by following these guidelines you can help ensure your strategic plan will be one of the 30% successes that everyone reads about.

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About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

2 Responses to Applying Innovative Thinking in Strategic Planning

  1. Pingback: Think Big, Take Small Steps | John R. Knotts

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