Change cannot be initiated in a vacuum. Neither can it be implemented without a rich and thorough understanding of what exists now—and a firm belief that the future can be different. But all strategic planning processes are not created equal. If you want to avoid the eye-rolling and sighs that often accompany proposals to undertake a strategic planning process, then you are going to have to think beyond the glossy report you might add to your bookshelf or post on your website. You have to be willing to take on your organization’s culture right along with questions about who you serve and how.
When facilitating strategic planning or visioning processes, I have found that organizations that shift to a culture of strategic thinking and action get where they want to go. These organizations get people from all levels involved, include their current and potential customers at appropriate points along the way, and they:
- Are open about what they want to achieve and why,
- Are realistic about what it will take to accomplish their goals,
- Can “see, smell, touch, taste and feel” what it will be like to achieve their vision,
- Question their assumptions and trouble-shoot proposed action plans before setting them in motion,
- Ensure everything they have and do is aligned with their vision and goals,
- Scan their internal and external environment for possible opportunities and threats,
- Measure and report their progress, and
- Adjust their action plans as new information becomes available.
How I can help
As a mediator, facilitator, strategic planner, statewide policy analyst, and court administrator, I have worked with individuals, organizations, businesses, and public agencies as they navigated desired, necessary, and imposed change. As a member of my professional community, I have served on multiple local and statewide committees, a city planning commission, the 20/20 Commission on the Future of the California Courts, and the Board of Trustees of a Community Hospital District. In each capacity I have urged groups to envision their preferred future and long-term goals, and then articulate clear, practical, and achievable plans for how to get there.
The most effective strategic planning processes are messy—at least behind the scenes. Difficult questions arise. Tough decisions about priorities for allocating resources are unavoidable. Even minor personality conflicts can create flashpoints that divide groups. This is where my extensive experience comes in handy. Interestingly, I have found that some of the most sophisticated, and satisfying, data collection, policy analysis, procedural re-engineering, facilitated discussion, and mediation work I have ever done has occurred in the midst of strategic planning processes.