Incorporating Scenario Planning into Your Planning Offsite

Strategic 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.

Several weeks ago, I talked about Application of Scenario Planning in Strategic Planning.  Then, we discussed the actual building of the potential scenarios to address possible future occurrences.  Now, in the Facilitation of an Effective Strategic Plan Offsite, we use scenario planning to generate potential ideas around what an organization should strategically consider.

Let me provide you with an example of a scenario that I used before with military privatized housing.

Scenario Planning Example

First, you should develop three to five scenarios that address potential concerns that you identified in the blogs covering How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment.  Review them with the senior person you are working with and narrow these down to three.  Any more probably is too much.

We’re not talking about aliens landing and capturing market share…focus on potential future events that are based in reality.  if you look at the above example, this proved to be a very possible event and raised concerns that the military determined to strategically deal with.

There are two ways to primarily address a scenario.  The example above provide the first way and that is to point out a potential vulnerability in current operations allowing the senior leadership to discuss and determine potential ways to mitigate the strategic risk.  If the organization already has a mission, vision, and goals, I like to provide scenarios that challenge their current strategy and have them determine if the strategy is still valid or does it need to be changed.

Either way, these are used to promote discussion, which leads eventually action items that I talked about last blog in Building a Strategic Plan from the Bottom Up.

My recommendation is that you have fun with the scenarios, but be realistic.  I have found that senior leadership enjoy thinking about the strategic what ifs and discussing them.  You just don’t want to do this too much during your offsite, or overuse the approach because the leaders will wonder if the plan is being built off reality or fiction.

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.

Building a Strategic Plan from the Bottom Up

Strategic Planning OffsiteStrategic 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.

A Successful Systematic Process to Apply at Your Strategic Offsite.

How many of you attended, participated in, or facilitated a strategic planning session where you started with the mission and vision and then went around the table coming up with goals that every felt the organization needed?

FAIL!
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Welcome to the world of the Good Idea Group.  Where leaders come up with things they think they want to work on and everyone gets assigned a goal so everyone is “part of the strategic plan.”

If you have been or are doing this, you are going to build a strategic plan without an Executable Focus and you will undoubtedly become one of the 70% that fail at achieving desired results.

The bad thing is that I have done this too!  Yep, I, even as a leader of organizations, have created plans built this same way.

Want to break this mold?

What to walk into a strategic planning session and walk out the end of the day with the best strategic plan possible?

Want everyone who attended the offsite feel like this was the most productive time they’ve ever had planning?

Want a plan the makes sense and is easy to implement?

If you answered yes to those four questions above, than this blog is for you.  As part of Leading Your Leaders to Develop an Effective Strategic Framework, this blog specifically describes how to build a strategic plan quickly, efficiently, and effectively.  You will find this technique is applicable to anything you are trying to solve.  Ready for this?

CertifyI Certify, that if you follow this approach, you will create a strategic plan with a solid executable focus that is designed to overcome problems in your organization and leverage your strengths and opportunities.  The resulting plan will, without a doubt, be fully implementable and you will always know why and how every action supports the vision of the organization.

Bridge

Imagine this (above) as your company.  You have a Mission (where you are today) and a Vision (where you want to be in the future) that you have validated during the first part of the offsite–we discussed this in the last blog, Facilitation of an Effective Strategic Plan Offsite.  Between the mission and vision, there is a raging river that prevents you from getting to the river.  What you need to build is a bridge that connects the too so you can actually get your organization to the vision.

The troubled water between the two banks was outlined by your organizational assessment that we covered in the How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment portion of this blog.  This is what you must overcome–what is in that water are the things that prevent your organization from reaching its vision.  However, scattered here and there in the river are low spots and rock outcroppings that help you in your journey of building a strong bridge to you vision.

If you keep this analogy in mind, you will easily understand this approach–as a matter of fact, I show a similar slide on the board to kick off this part of the offsite with their mission written out on the left and their vision written out on the right.  During the offsite, I cal these series of exercises “What We Need.”

This exercise happens in three parts:

  • What We Need…
  • Diagramming…
  • Ownership…

What We Need

At this point, we have reviewed the Organizational Assessment and finalized a solid Mission and Vision Statement (I will talk more about these in upcoming blogs).  I normally send everyone on a break and then I update the appropriate slides for the next section.

When everyone comes back, we review the high-level SWOT assessment, which encapsulates pretty much what is going on in the organization.  I might refer to white boards or flip charts where specific items where added.  This refreshes everyone’s thoughts on what is happening.  Then I bring up the bridge slide with the new mission on the left and new vision on the right.  At the top of the slide is the statement, “What we need…”

I give the team (normally) 60 minutes to silently finish this sentence:

What we need to achieve our vision is…

I ask them to write each thought down on a 5×7 post it note.  The statement should be a concrete thought like “professional development training for all levels,” not something simple like “training.”  They have 60 minutes to silently brainstorm ideas to finish this sentence.

Each idea should be focused on overcoming the challenges the organization faces today and leveraging what’s good.

I like to have two or three people working with me at this point.  One or two go around and simply pick up the post it notes and bring them to me.  I then start arranging them as they come in into group using affinity diagramming.  I stick them on the wall in their groups.  Sometimes I use a large white board or I hang empty post it butcher block paper around the room and organize the groups that way.

As you can imagine, this can be a fast and furious activity, especially if the leaders are strong thinkers.  You can quickly generate hundreds of ‘what we need’ ideas.

Once everyone appears done, or at the 60-minute mark, I stop the exercise and put everyone on break.  While they are on break, I get the helper(s) to review my groupings and help me finish them up.  At this point, this is my affinity diagramming–not theirs.

Diagramming

When everyone is back from break, the first thing I like to highlight is the number of strategic ideas they came up with (number of post it notes) to achieve their vision.  This number is normally well into the hundreds and is always impressive that in an hour or less, they could come up with so many ideas.

Then I explain how I have organized their ideas on the wall.  Note that I don’t talk about group titles or anything, just explain the process I used.  Several times the executives I work with have never seen affinity diagramming at work–many have never even heard of it.

By the way, this approach has been so effective with organizations that many executives have asked me to help them apply the same technique to many other types of projects.

For the next 10-15 minutes (or so), I ask the team to come up to the board and review all the ideas and validate the grouping.  They are free to discuss and move anything on the board, but they cannot remove any idea–all ideas are valid at this point.

Once they have agreed on the final groupings, we walk through each group and discuss the items–I normally read them off.  Then I ask them to label that group with a name.  After all the groups are named, I ask them if any of the groups are similar in nature and could be grouped into a larger group–this is what is called tree diagramming (grouping the groups).

Once the final large groups are done, I step back and point out that they have just come up with their strategic plan.  They have their Goals–the large groups, Objectives–the original affinitized groups, and the Actions–the ideas on post it notes.

It is normally at this point that every executive in the room is so amazed that they have created so much and done it in under two hours!

Of course, the plan needs work by me, but everything is there.  My next job is to write it all up in a structured document.  But the plan is now theirs!  It was their ideas and their groupings, all i did was facilitate their thoughts in a beneficial direction to achieve their vision.  This breeds ownership of the executives of the plan.

Ownership

The next and final step (normally) is for you to strengthen the ownership of the plan in the executives.  List out the goals (hopefully you have between three to five at this point) and pose to the group, who will own each of these Goals.  There should be one owner for each goal.  I have seen where they have multiple owners, trying to give everyone ownership, but that fails, because it gives leaders an out when you share the accountability.  Everyone will end up being involved in implementing the plan, but right now, you simply need accountability for each goal resting with one throat to choke.

This is a point where you would hope that the senior leader of the company would weight in (I normally prep him or her before hand) and make a determination after discussion.

The end result…

You have just created a new mission, vision, goals, objectives, and actions in one day following this approach.  The executives at this event will be amazed at how simple and effective the process was and can definitely see the value of the strategic plan.

Your next step, outside of the offsite is to bring it all together in a concise document for them to review.  I normally put this together in a detailed PowerPoint after action review that talks about what actions took place, what additional information was learned along with the SWOT, the final mission and vision with the goals between them marching across the bridge left to right (often referred to as the bridge slide), and a slide for each of the goals with written out objectives.  backup i have all the ‘what we need’ statements on slides aligned to their appropriate goal and objective.

This after action report take a week or less to put together…sometimes I can have it done the next day.  Most of it I build before the event and simply fill in the data after the event.

Following this approach is fast, efficient, and effective.  You will be recognized by the leadership for one of the best planning offsites they have ever been to, and you will have a rough strategic plan built with a solid strategic framework and executable focus.  The next step will be to translate this strategy into execution.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll discuss some of the finer points of products from the strategic planning offsite.  we will look at:

  • Scenario Planning
  • Mission Statements
  • Vision Statements
  • Values and Principles

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.

Facilitation of an Effective Strategic Plan Offsite

Strategic FacilitationStrategic 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.

Getting the Most Out of Your Company’s Strategic Planning Offsite.

Especially for companies or organizations that have never really dedicated time to strategic planning, the first facilitation can prove to be a make or break experience for executives.

Up to this point, you have focused on developing the Organizational Assessment in my section on How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment.  Executive leadership have been involved from an interview perspective, but they haven’t been engaged to the level that we will expect during Leading Your Leaders to Develop an Effective Strategic Framework.

This is when it “gets real.”

As we discuss this part of developing the strategic framework, we will cover these two subjects:

  • Building a Strategic Plan from the Bottom Up.
  • Incorporating Scenario Planning into Your Strategic Planning Offsite.

This section is crucial for setting the stage and pre-planning a strategic planning offsite is almost as critical as holding it in the first place.  How you organize and what you do at the offsite is as important as the results.  This sets the experience that executives should expect from all strategic planning in the future.

If your offsite is boring, produces little results, feels conceived, and appears to be a waste of time, then your resulting strategy will undoubtedly fail to achieve desired results.

The organization of the event is critical.  Executives time is always at a premium and pulling them out of the office for even a half day session is met with resistance.  Getting buy-in from the senior leader on the importance of the offsite is critical.  You need to get their dedicated time and if they aren’t willing to dedicate time to setting strategy, you need to question their understanding of a leader’s purpose in a company.

My approach to an organization’s first strategic planning offsite takes one dedicated day.  If the organization has specific issues to deal with, like determining roles and responsibilities, working through a significant cultural issues, etc., then I might add a day or two where they will work specifically on these issues.

Of course, everything is planned in advance and the organizational assessment should already have highlighted additional offsite planning needs and activities.

This is how I normally organize a strategic planning offsite and why:

  • Set the Stage. Step one at the offsite is to ensure that everyone is present. If the senior leader can’t make it, then don’t have the offsite. This sends a message (regardless of the reason) that the strategy isn’t important. The senior leader kicks off the event and then introduces the facilitators. I like to have at least three people working a strategic planning offsite–two facilitators and a really good note taker. When the facilitator takes the stage, they should take charge. It is a job of the facilitator not only to ensure everything is completed in the allotted time, but to control the group. You will be challenged at some point and probably often by the executives in the room and you must be firm and tactful. Have rules of engagement and stick to an advertised agenda.
  • Level Set. Before you get into anything about the organization, level set the group on what strategic planning is. Get everyone to agree on terms and definitions that will be used. Everyone in the room has an opinion on what strategy and strategic planning is; what you want is one common definition that the organization will agree on. This eliminates ambiguity as to what the terms you use mean. Some organizations might call it a business plan, others might call it a campaign plan. Some use mission to reflect both the mission and vision, while some might call a mission a purpose. Regardless, get these things on the table and finalized up front to eliminate confusion later.
  • Organizational Assessment. The second level setting activity is when you explore the results of the organizational assessment with the entire leadership team. Prior to the offsite, I will have reviewed the results with the senior leader to ensure they are comfortable with all the findings being shown. If they are good, then they stand behind the results. Undoubtedly there will be significant discussion on some to several points. They will want to add information to the assessment, which you should capture on white boards or butcher block and keep posted throughout. This makes sure that everyone fully understands, at the same level, the issues that the organization faces and the strengths and opportunity the organization has at its disposal.
  • Mission Statement. I, using the knowledge from the assessment, lead the leaders through creation of a new or validation of an existing mission statement (or whatever they’re calling it). I will cover this in a few weeks in more detail.
  • Vision Statement. I, using the knowledge from the assessment, lead the leaders through creation of a new or validation of an existing vision statement (or whatever they’re calling it). I will also cover this in a few weeks in more detail.
  • Lunch. By this time, the leaders understand the current state and have a mission and vision to move forward. It is time to break for lunch and let them discuss and reflect.
  • Develop the Plan. Next week I will take you through the approach that I use to build a strategic plan from the bottom up. This activity is simple and ensures the resulting plan has an executable focus on fixing organizational problems and overcoming barriers to the organization’s vision. This series of exercises takes most of the afternoon.
  • Assignment of Ownership. At the end of the day, I get the leaders to assign ownership to the plan. The plan will have high-level goals (or whatever you decide to call them) and it is important that the leadership of the organization take ownership of these goals. So, before I close out for the day, each goal gets a person that will own it and will drive it toward implementation.
  • Closeout. At the end, I wrap up by covering what we discussed, our results, and discuss the next steps. Then, I ask the senior leader to close out the planning offsite with their thoughts and direction for the leadership team.

Thoughtful organization of your strategic planning offsite will ensure executive’s time is used appropriately and the result will be an effective strategy for the organization.

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.

Leading Your Leaders to Develop an Effective Strategic Framework

Strategic PlanningStrategic 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.

Developing a Well-informed Strategic Framework is the Second Crucial Step in Strategic Planning.

All successful plans start with an Executable Focus. 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. When plans are built in a vacuum with by leaders or a planning team sitting in a conference room one afternoon, they often lack this focus. This was the focus of the last several blog articles designed to guide you through How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment. The last ten weeks were designed to outline the first step in ensuring strategic planning doesn’t fail–building an executable focus.

The second step of Think Big, Take Small Steps, is to develop a well-informed Strategic Framework with a purposeful and everlasting mission statement; an inspiring and far-reaching vision statement; and three to five broad goals that encompass what must change.

The leadership’s primary role is to decide the direction of the organization and when the plan is not developed by the input of organizational leadership, it does not have their buy-in. Just as importantly, a plan built without the input of the organization’s personnel will have an equally difficult time of gaining approval and traction.

Over the next six weeks we will focus on conducting an effective strategic planning offsite and ensuring we develop a strong mission and vision statement and effective goals. We will also discuss establishing core values and principles that don’t exist and how to adjust those that exist, but are not the ones the company desires to drive the right behavior.

The focus of these articles, like the ones before, are really for someone to facilitate the strategic planning activity, but any organization could pick these steps up and complete them end to end.

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.

Putting Your Key Audience First

Strategic AudienceStrategic 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.

Aligning Your Strategic Plan to Your Key Stakeholders, Customers, and Partners.

This blog will round out our discussion around How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment. A good strategic plan should lay out a systematic plan to close the “gap” between where you are now and where you are going. This “gap” is identified by an organizational assessment’s results. A good and throughout assessment will help you define a very strong strategic plan. Last, but not least, you need to ensure your plan is firmly aligned to you audience.

Five years ago, I was brought in, at the last minute, to help a government organization develop a strategic plan. They had already created a strategic plan the year before. They spent several sessions in a conference room wordsmithing a mission and vision statement and they created goals for each of the division chiefs in the organization–they wanted to make sure each chief was doing something strategic. They put this plan into a beautiful and colorful glossy book and then presented it to their senior service commander.

He took one look at it and simply said, “Here’s some money, go get ‘these people’ to help you out.” ‘These people’ ended up being me. When they sat down with us, at first they said, “All we need to do is to get to some key process indicators and we’ll be fine.” Luckily, we were able to convince them that they needed to start over.

Their glossy strategic plan was 30 pages long. It was well written and said all the right things (on the surface). However, one thing really stood out to me to this day. In those 30 pages, they mentioned the word “customer” 5 times. Nowhere in the entire plan did they say who those customers were. The customer was important–at least five times important–but they had no idea who that customer really was.

The problem is that I see this everywhere. Organizations, because of business and management education, most leaders know that the customer is very important, but very few have ever sat down and identified who these customers are.

What’s worse is that they really don’t know their entire audience–their stakeholders, customers, and partners.

This is one of the first things I show to the leadership in the strategic planning session. Throughout the organizational assessment effort you need to be keen to discover who these audience members are and which ones are the most important. Then they need to be presented to the leadership at the start of the planning session because this is who–especially customers–you are really building a strategy for.

Stakeholders, Customers, and Partners.

The first thing I do for the leadership is define what I think a strategic planning audience is. I define what stakeholders, customers, and partners are and how they inter-relate. You might feel differently about this or have different names and that’s fine–just make sure everyone knows your definitions up front. Once defined, very little can be done to argue the point. If you don’t define them, no one will agree.

Venn DiagramStakeholders are people and groups that have an interested in what your organization does.

Customers are people and groups that drive the work of the organization. All customers are stakeholders, but clearly all stakeholders are not customers.

Partners are people and groups that you work with to deliver the work. Some partners might be stakeholders and customers of your organization and some might not.

These definitions are pretty simple for people to understand and a venn diagram really helps paint the picture.

For presentation I make a list of all the stakeholders, customers, and partners on a slide and I rank order them based on what I’ve learned in the assessment. The leaders, in turn, review, adjust, and re-rank them as required.

 Audience Chart

This all seems like a simple concept, but its immensely important to the true success of any strategic plan. If you have not built your plan in full alignment of your key audience, you’re probably going to have significant trouble implementing it and being successful. What’s worse, if you don’t build your strategy with your customer in mind, then I’m going to question why do you even have a strategy–it’s nothing but a self-licking ice cream cone.

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.

Incorporating Recurring Measures in Your Assessments

Developing Strategic MeasuresStrategic 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.

What Gets Measured, Gets Done — Over and Over Again.

Several weeks ago, I shared with you a tool that I use for organizational assessments in my Assessing Your Organization Using the Military’s DOTMLPF – FREE Assessment blog.  In that blog, I told you that I ask, through interviews, for interviewees to rate particular items from 1 to 5.

The reason I structure and write out these interview templates is so that, in a year, myself, or the company, can go back and ask the same questions, or at least a subset of those questions, the same way year-after-year.  Specifically, I want them to ask these 1 to 5 questions again if nothing else.  This is a way to compare the organization’s strategic progress over the years.  This utilizes your DOTMLPF-FREE Assessment as your guiding light over the strategic journey of the organization.

Additionally, when developing the organizational assessment, look for key things that the company measures today and bring that into the assessment.  Do they have a balanced scorecard that they use?  What type of human resource measures do they have, like employee engagement (I recommend Gallup), retirement eligibility and employee tenure, and attrition rates?  Operational volume of services and sales and overall expense, when combined, provide a simple view of average cost per piece for an organization.  Look for the big things you can measure every year or that they already measure.

Tying a company’s strategy to what they measure, or things they should be measuring, helps ensure the success for the strategic plan in the future.  All too often, strategies are created by a single executive or small group of executives who come up with a mission, vision, and goals, in a conference room.  The reality of these are as good as the wordsmithing that occurs to create them.  The purpose of Think Big, Take Small Steps and specifically this whole section on How to Conduct an Organizational Assessment, is to provide the Executable Focus that helps strategies succeed.

Incorporating recurring measures in the organizational assessment at the start provides the organization with a repetitive tool for addressing and measuring strategic progress.  The tendency will be to measure everything and that simply isn’t required.  The company will have lots of measurements that could absorb your time and attention.  Focus only on the few that are important.

For instance, I worked with the Air Force Sergeants Association over the years as a consultant and volunteer.  As a membership organization, their primary focus is providing an Air Force Enlisted Voice on Capitol Hill.  Their mission is only effective if they have a strong membership base.  As a general rule, lobbying associations with less than 100K members tend to be discounted.  Thus, Membership Strength was the most important strategic metric for the association, especially when they hover around 120K.  However, for a long time, they only focused on Membership Recruiting and didn’t really look at the bottom line.  They would be recruiting people by the droves, but on the back end they were pouring out the door faster as their membership expired.  Taking account of Membership Strength, along with Membership Recruiting, Membership Retention, and Membership Loss provides the full strategic picture on the most important factor that the association cares about–Legislative Strength.  Now you they strategically examine what drives recruiting and retention and causes loss for the organization and focus on these activities.  A DOTMLPF-FREE assessment further highlights gaps that might be affecting or preventing the association from being successful.

Part of assessing an organization is to develop recurring measures that give the organization a repetitive tool for addressing and measuring strategic progress.  If you follow my suggested approach with DOTMLPF-FREE, you will automatically create a starting strategic performance measure.  Then focusing on those important few metrics that tell you everything about the organization and are fairly easy to obtain round out the assessment.  Remember, this is strategic…not operational or tactical planning…and you want to focus on strategic measures that lead you to operational and tactical actions.  This provides an executable focus to your plan.

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.

Related Links:

  1. Air Force Sergeants Association: http://afsahq.org/
  2. http://balancedscorecard.org/
  3. http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-measure-your-strategic-plans-success.html
  4. http://www.gallup.com/

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.

Related Links:

  1. http://bluesummitstrategy.com/creativity/creativity-in-strategic-planning/2007/
  2. http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/good-to-great.html
  3. http://innovative-thought.com/
  4. http://www.amazon.com/What-Got-Here-Wont-There/dp/1401301304
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