Strategic Planning: Street-Wise Tips to Make It Work for Your Organization

Strategic planning can be either a boon or a bust for an organization. Many people bring “baggage” to the process. Some people have had terrible experiences. They vehemently oppose committing time and other resources to it. Others yawn, glaze over and are completely skeptical that the process can produce any measurable results. Others enthusiastically embrace the process and produce extraordinary results.

What makes a strategic planning project successful? How can you get the most out of the time and money invested in the project? The following points address key factors that will help you take action to plan and implement a successful strategic planning project.

1. Invest time in “planning to plan. ”

Get commitment from the CEO and senior management. Make sure that the CEO and senior management will be active participants. This means clearing their schedules to ensure attendance in all face-to-face strategic thinking sessions. Be sure they understand that the commitment of resources extends beyond face-to-face strategic thinking sessions. Resources, including time as well as money, must be committed to the implementation and measurement stages in order for the strategic plan to be successful.

Appoint a Project Planning Team. This team will usually consist of two to four people who are responsible for making decisions about the structure of the project and communicating with the others who will be involved.

Determine whether to use an internal or external facilitator. An external trainer enables all those involved to actively participate in the strategic thinking activities. It is extremely difficult for an internal person to facilitate and also express their personal insights as questions are raised. An external facilitator also offers “the third person” perspective, can bring information from other sources and challenge “entrenched in-house thinking” or “corporate taboos. ” An external facilitator can manage the group’s participation without concern of the hierarchy, political consequences or personal repercussions.

Develop a clear statement of what you want to achieve. By clearly articulating what you want to accomplish, you improve your chances for success. Utilize the facilitator to help you. Communicate this statement to participants and other members of your organization.

Explore the benefits, drawbacks of a variety of formats with the facilitator. Work with the facilitator to select the format that best meets the unique needs of the organization and individuals involved. (Do you want to utilize pre-session activities conducted by electronic media/fax/mail to get participants thinking before the face-to-face sessions? Is there a need for market research? If so, what type and to what extent? What existing information is pertinent for the group to review? Should strategic thinking sessions be half-day, full-day, spread out over several months or condensed into several days back-to-back? Should the strategic thinking sessions be held on-site or off-site? What atmosphere is most conducive for the participants to leave behind the day-to-day pressures so they can fully concentrate on strategic thinking? )#)