I remember the annual planning occasion well. As a senior executive at the time, I had consulted with my department managers to develop useful and thoughtful strategies as our contribution to the overall draft strategic plan.
As a new company initiative, opportunities were made by the ‘powers that be’ to make verbal comments through a series of focus groups before the final document was published. “Excellent”, I thought, “A chance to raise some concerns and make a difference.”
I was particularly concerned that in a 30 page document there was only one brief reference to the employees of the company. In raising the concern in a focus group I was immediately supported by the human resources representative and discussion ensued. Unanimously the focus group supported a greater emphasis on the wellbeing and development of the staff of the company. We were convinced that the CEO and Board would look favourably on such recognition of the important role employees take in making an organisation function. Excellent!!
Some weeks later, however, the final strategic planning document was released to the staff with a covering letter from the CEO. Virtually none of the discussed changes were documented and, to add insult to injury, the CEO described the document in his covering letter as “his vision” for the company with absolutely no credit given to the masses of people who had thoughtfully contributed to the arduous annual strategic planning process.
At the very least, my managers said, the CEO could have aimed for a document reflecting “our vision for the company”. I could only agree with them, felt the same feeling of let down and couldn’t help but be somewhat dismissive of the final document. It looked fantastic in its glossy cover and the contents reeked of the usual corporate speak. What was ultimately achieved? It sat on the shelf for 12 months after which much the same process was repeated.
It makes sense for any organisation to plan strategically for its ‘big picture’ future, as distinct from the daily business planning obligations. However, so often management consultants lead boards and committees to fill the blank boxes under the common headings found in strategic plan templates. Or worse, begin by having the planning group engage in games of so called ‘blue sky statements’.
Considerable time might be spent over what the correct words should be in a ‘vision/blue sky statement’ – e.g., should it be “excellence” or “real worldexcellence?” (whatever that means) – to the neglect of the more pressing matters. I once worked in a group that argued for almost an hour over the vision statement before anything else was considered. In my view, the vision and mission statements, if they are really needed, should be done last not first!
Step back from the insidious strategic planning formulas and the rampant ‘corporate speak’ for a while and take in a fresh view, before dragging out last year’s strategic plan, making a few cosmetic changes and spending a small fortune on a new glossy cover.
Most organisations have not defined what they are trying to do for whom, nor have they been able to measure or monitor their results or they say they cannot do so. Whining that they are ‘important’ and ‘doing good works’ is insufficient recommendation for funding and sponsorship opportunities that are increasing available to them from government and private sectors.
Take note. It really matters whether or not the performance of a organisation is unknown, unknowable or downright useless. For their future viability, every organisation should set out to benefit one clearly identified group of beneficiaries, and determine a single, long-term, verifiable, target figure that reflects what it is trying to do. If such a target cannot be set the organisation should be re-formed until this becomes possible. And, rather than the stakeholder theory that is commonly aligned with the corporate sector, organisations should adopt the ‘no harm principle’ and the ‘principle of engagement’ in its place.
In this regard, from my 40 years of experience working on and with boards and committees. Take your first brave step to a fresh view on strategic planning. Another way of thinking. A better way of thinking.
My personally researched and developed, non-run-of-the-mill strategic planning method, evidence-based, is:
- Forget about ‘Vision’ and ‘Mission’
- What do you do?
- For whom?
- Primary intended beneficiary?
- 2*COPE Analysis (Trademark) www.headstogether.com.au
- Development of ~six strategic statements – looking 3 to 5 years in advance
- Development of Implementation Plan – looking to ~12 month implementation
My most recent client:
Bellarine Aged Care Association, Inc – formation, facilitated strategic and action planning, policy development
1. Governance – management policies – RTO
2. Coaching and mentoring – neighbourhood house manager- RTO
3. Strategic planning in-depth (facilitated) – community services organisation – RTO
4. Online Iearning materials: sports and fitness – university/RTO
5. Constitution review – community services organisation
6. Grant application (successful) – incorporated association
7. Strategic planning in-depth (facilitated) – neighbourhood house (b)
8. Policies – community services organisation – RTO
9. Problem solving facilitation – neighbourhood house
10. e-Newsletter setup and training – RTO
11. Workshop on governance – neighbourhood house
We do what we say we will do