I was reminded the other day, after a workshop that didn’t go so well, that we all need lists—and when the lists are good, we need to follow them. The workshop was conducted in an organization that wasn’t ready for the workshop. I tried to craft consumable content, but the chunks (volume and general concept) still proved too large to consume in the allotted time. Information overload, abstractions, challenged belief systems and many other factors then rallied to make a surmountable facilitation issue an insurmountable organization issue—as did not setting expectations well enough about process discomfort or nature of the outcomes. I’m not sure what will happen next, but what I do know is that I will make sure that this list accompanies me, and is provided to all clients as part of the proposal—even if we mutually agree to work around non-idealistic readiness factors.
I’m agile, and I know nothing is what it seems. I know I’m likely to be asked to dance at some point during an engagement, rather than follow a straight path. In strategy, specifically scenario-based strategic planning, there is no straight path. If done right, strategy forces people to grapple with their deepest beliefs and challenge their most precious assumptions. When an organization tells me they can handled my brand of disruptive planning (or planning for disruption – both are true) – I go with it, knowing too, that they will also need to dance a bit. Discomfort and confusion often gets people engaged in ways they would not be engaged if they were brought along a smooth path. Discomfort breads passion. And strategy needs passion. If an organization goes through the fire, they are stronger for it.
So there is a list. I’ve compiled the list to remind me of the organizational attributes required to purposefully plan, and to ultimately create an environment for strategic dialog and strategic action – and to do son in an aggressive and professional manner.
Here’s my list. What would you add?
Are you Ready for Strategic Planning?
- If it exists, the current strategic plan has been evaluated in detail to identify any strategies that should continue and to remind the team of the strategic history of the organization (this assumes that the strategic planning document is updated regularly—see item 2).
- The current strategic plan actively guides and informs major decisions, and is regularly updated to reflect changes in strategic intent or strategic execution capability of the organization.
- Strategic planning is driven by the desire to articulate and act on strategic intent in order to achieve a vision—not by the need for a plan imposed by an external entity or arbitrary requirement.
- The cost and time related to the planning process are secondary to the effectiveness of the outcome.
- The organization is aware that strategic planning is taking place and everyone understands the role they will be asked to play during the process.
- The organization is ready to structurally integrate strategic action into its ongoing management approach.
- There is clear ownership/leadership of the strategic planning process by either an executive or a committee with both responsibility and accountability for plan development, monitoring and revision.
- Regardless of the organization’s structure, a committee of key stakeholders has been formed to create a broad representation of those who will be responsible and accountable for implementing the strategic plan.
- The community regularly exercises rational processes for decision making, conflict resolution and information sharing — and clear pathways for resolving problems exist.
- The senior executive already acts strategically, or is prepared to do so, by consistently making decisions based on the documented strategic intent, vision, mission and values of the organization.
- Teams responsible for strategic planning are functional, high-performing teams.
- The organization can afford to spend the necessary time, and commit the necessary focus, to actively engage in a planning process.
- The organization allocates sufficient time to strategic planning, so that people involved feel like they can actively engage in the process. Participants see strategic planning as part of their responsibility, not as an extra or “when you get to it” activity.
- The organization has actively developed a strategic planning competency that includes all participants in the planning process, regardless of level or role.
- Organizational leadership has committed to providing support and leadership at critical points in the strategic planning process.
- Advocates of strategic planning have been identified within the organization, and they have been given time and budget to help nurture the strategic planning effort. They are responsible for coaching outside facilitators where necessary to ensure that workshops or other efforts are successful.
- Affordably priced external facilitators have been identified to help guide key portions of the strategic conversation.
- An effective space exists in which to hold regular meetings. Space for holding larger group meetings are accessible and convenient and can be configured to foster openness and creativity.
- Meeting times are protected to allow all participants to attend.
- The time-frame for the planning process is realistic given current organizational strategic planning competency and time allocations.
- Good data exists for all internal and external factors related to the strategic position of the organization (i.e., operating costs, program and product performance, budgets, internal capabilities, competitive position, etc.)