5 Ways to Strategically Plan Your Strategic Planning Meeting
Many organizations desperately need a strategic planning session. They may want better vision, team cohesion, or new products. Most companies hold meetings, hoping that some strategic planning will magically emerge. This is unrealistic.
Strategic planning is envisioning the future of the company or organization, translating that vision into measurable and achievable goals, and then implementing long range planning to accomplish those goals. Strategic planning works with the ultimate goal in mind. This differs from long term planning. Long term planning is defining the series of steps along the path to achieve the vision. Strategic planning considers overarching plans far into the future, and transcends all aspects of the organization.
Strategic planning is hard because 1) it asks people to think and work beyond the scope of their defined roles; 2) it requires that departments work with other departments in new and cooperative ways; 3) it means people who previously did not consider consequences beyond their scope of responsibilities do so; and 4) it forces thinking of possibilities far into the future.
For many people, just getting through the workday and managing their daily responsibilities is taxing enough. Thinking about where the future of the organization will be 5 and 10 and 20 years in the future, maybe long after they are collecting a pension, seems unnecessary and irrelevant.
Creating a strategic planning session is not the same as the weekly planning meeting. It takes times, energy, patience and commitment. It also takes open-minded vision and foresight.
How can you create a strategic summit?
- Start with a common ideology. I start with about 30 minutes on leadership and management. For some, this is a review, but it gets everyone thinking about their role in and value to the organization. A shared experience, even for 30 minutes, can help accomplish this. It gets everyone thinking creatively about their relationship with their supervisor and employees.
- Identify the reason you are in business. Define what makes your company, product, or organization unique. This means revisiting values, goals, and commitments. Ask the group questions such as:“Why did you first want to work with us?” “What attracts you to the mission of this organization?” “What is it we do here that makes you want to be part of this team?” In Simon Sinek’s The Power of Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, he articulates why some companies such as Apple and Harley Davidson manage to create such a definitive brand and a loyal customer base by defining first and foremost why they are in business.
- Identify the challenges. Many companies don’t want to hear about problems. They hide or gloss over issues, mistakenly hoping that the problems will disappear on their own. Many organizations discourage problem solving because they punish the people who identify the areas of needed improvement and potential growth. Companies tend to be resistant to changes because mistakes can be costly, or, more likely, “it is the way we’ve always done it.” If managers and leaders don’t identify problems, they cannot solve them. Brainstorming about areas to change is a key part of finding efficiency, expansion and creating a shared vision of the future.
- Create the vision. Brainstorm on where the company should/could be in 5, 10 or 20 years. See or develop the new products. Formulate a plan for the matriculation of the next generation of leaders. One of my common questions is “Who is going to lead this organization in 20 years, and what are you doing to help those leaders now?” Think of new products and how will be used in the future. When things seem impossible, then you have probably crafted a vision. Establish common goals and prioritize them based on the company’s needs.
- Develop the long-term plan to achieve the strategic goals. Strategic planning is about vision. Long term planning is the systematic series of processes or steps you take to achieve those specific goals. If the goals are not set or if the bar is too low, then there is no real long term planning. That is just daily tasks. People sometimes confuse the long term planning process with strategic vision. If you are mapping out the “how-to” then it is probably long term planning.
Good companies and organizations embrace change because it means they are moving forward, staying current, and constantly striving to exceed their customers’ expectations.