Strategic Planning Giving the Vision More Substance
If the exercises for making the vision more personal don’t have the desired effect, or if I think it will be too time-consuming (which it is), I often a short-cut to a discussion of what the company will look like after five years of pursuing the vision we are discussing. Again, I like to get individuals to state this in their own words, and from their own perspective, because I want to ferret out strategic issues that people expect to see but are unwilling to voice.
A good way to do this is to ask team members to write down two or three good things about how the vision will affect them and two or three bad things. As with other exercises, don’t focus too much on the bad things, but do be aware they may indicate issues that must be resolved for your vision to get full support from the management team.
Another simple way to give the vision more substance is to attach numbers to it. I normally do a projection of what the company’s sales and profits will look like based on our assumptions and the strategies we are discussing. For many teams, seeing these numbers brings home the reality of what we are proposing better than any other exercise.
When I talk about drilling deeper, I’m definitely talking about a strategic planning process that involves the top management team, and not external stakeholders or media. When you take planning outside the organization, you are generally looking to communicate why your strategy is a good one rather than how you came up with it.
An example of what I mean by “drilling down” could be seen in an airline examining the customer satisfaction impact of all the contact points a passenger may have with them. This might involve some detailed analysis of the operation, combined with insights from market research on things that affect customer satisfaction.
While it would look tactical to an outside observer, this kind of “drilling down” can identify places where operational, financial, IT or HR practices (to name a few) can be changed to be better aligned with the overall corporate strategy.
This kind of work is unlikely to be productive with the media because it is time-consuming and hard for them to package. They will, however, appreciate any surprising bit you might come up with. For example, when Sears acquired K-mart, they saw the real estate involved as the key piece of the value of that deal.
This was interesting because it was a merger of two huge retail brands, not just a real estate transaction. The news media were fascinated by this, without really knowing why that made sense for Sears.
Outside stakeholders may have more appreciation for the actual “drill down” process. The best way to handle this with them (if you have the resources) is to walk them through the key questions. They won’t have the data or experience of the management team, but – if you are well-prepared – you can throw those in as trump cards to move the conversation and its conclusions along.
One important point here is that the process of strategic planning is entirely different from the process of communicating the strategic plan. Both are important, but it’s possible to do either poorly if you mix them together without considering how you will affect the quality of the strategy or the perception of the resulting plan.
Hopefully, in one of these three areas – making it personal, giving it substance, and drilling deeper, you have found a nugget or two that will help you reinvigorate your strategic planning process. In any case, you should also consider using an experienced strategic planning professional, because such a person can usually spot issues that may be holding you back and suggest exercises that will get your strategic planning process back on track.
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