Strategic Planning I: What is strategy?

15 01 2013

The Meeting

groupmeeting

In the fourth quarter, you met as a management team to prepare for the upcoming year in a strategic planning session.  It was time to agree upon and delineate your strategic initiatives for the next year.

  • Do you have them written down easily accessible to review throughout the year?
  • Did you use a consultant, facilitator or was your meeting conducted by one of your senior leaders?
  • Were you pleased with the result of your strategic planning session?

Maximize your strategic results by doing the following:

  1. Change the location of this meeting from your normal location to allow for fresh thinking in a new stimulating environment.  Offsite is a great consideration.
  2. Foster a creative and strategic mindset.  Pre-work, such as providing a series of leading strategic questions for the team to answer, is a great way to allow folks time to think about their ideas and prepare them for the meeting.  Having the team breakout into small groups brings more ideas to the table than one big discussion.
  3. Have rules for this meeting to protect free-thinking and enhance participation.  Make sure there is no negativity regarding any ideas that may surface.  Make sure that the meeting is not dominated by the folks who speak all of the time.
  4. Plan to meet regularly throughout the year to keep the team informed and updated regarding the status of the initiatives.  Is your group “one and done”?  How often are you getting the team together to review the agreed-upon plan?  Strategic planning meetings should take place throughout the year, not just once a year.  I suggest monthly meetings where you move the focus beyond the potential of the idea as well as the buy-in process.  Rather, your team should dig into the challenges.  Uncover the bottleneck for the innovation and work on breaking through.  Keep the goals, vision and plan in front of the team and make the language within the plan part of the typical corporate conversation.
  5. Have a goal to focus on strategy and actively avoid operational issues in the meeting.  Make sure that you are conducting a strategy meeting where you will discuss innovation and implementation.  This is not the time for operational issues to be discussed and planned.  Consider the difference between operational issues and strategic issues.  Have a separate meeting for each.

strategy

Goal Setting vs. Strategic Planning

If this meeting has an agenda for setting up expectations and goals for your existing departments, it is not a strategic planning meeting.  If the meeting has a focus on “how” to achieve specific goals, such meetings are operational in nature and not strategic.  Operational meetings are as important as Strategy meetings.  However, do not mistake one for the other.  They could not be more different from one another.  True strategic meetings focus on corporate vision and where you want your company to be.

Operational Management vs. Strategic Management

There is a tremendous amount of strategy that goes into running the operation of your business.  And looking into the processes with the purpose of improving them or doing more of them is certainly a necessary and valuable part of your operational strategy.  However, such an endeavor is not part of your global strategic plan.  Strategic planning sets in motion initiatives that can move your organization in an innovative direction with new processes and new measurements.

Day-to-Day Concerns vs. Vision

We are typically busy focused on putting out fires and issues relating to the day-to-day business concerns.  Once one pulls back from this and sees the bigger picture including global concerns and future direction, one can gain the vision needed to participate fully in effective conversations regarding strategy.

Eye-Cubed executives and leaders appreciate the time needed to become inspired, determine the value of each innovative initiative and execute the implementation needed for success.  By differentiating between operational concerns and strategic endeavors, determining a measurement technique, process and timeframe, your team will drive the initiatives forward and evolve towards greatness.

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8 responses

15 01 2013
Sean McGinley

Nice clarification between the operational end and the strategic end. Will keep that in mind. Thanks, Sean

15 01 2013
Matt Ziino

Great post. I’m always able to find a take-away even as a middle manager, because your points can be applied to many situations. I couldn’t agree more with Sean. From personal experience, it is FAR too easy to get bogged down in the operational side of the job — what do I need to do right now to ensure the dept/group etc is functioning properly? It’s a good reminder to always keep the overarching strategic vision in mind and make time to understand how your operational work fits in.

15 01 2013
Ian MacDougall

Completely agree. An operational meeting has a PA focus whereas a strategic meeting has an EI focus. An organization that confuses these two does so at its peril. The alert CEO will look for patterns of issues in operations meetings and transfer these to the company’s strategic meeting for a deeper dive.

16 01 2013
David Sussman

Thank you for your comments. Sean and Matt, the few minutes you have taken to think about the differences raises your conscience and gives you an edge. In Ian’s case, as a seasoned expert in educating executives and consulting teams, your insight is valuable and adds tremendously to the discussion and thought. Thanks you again.

16 01 2013
Hoard Bass

Great article, very relevant.

I plan and structure every meeting or interaction with the same question — Whats the outcome ? If the meeting is really successful how would i know it ? What would be the outcome…thats the key …start with the end and then follow the advice thats been given: pre work, goundrules, execution etc but always focus on one key thing—whats the outcome, what will we have accomplished/created when were done?

17 01 2013
Mark Kolier

Very thoughtful post David as are the comments by Matt, Sean, and yourself. I was taken by the first point you make – change the location of the meeting. Reminds me of a slogan from a pretty smart guy’s company – Steve Jobs – ‘Think Different’. In order to do that you need to change the perspective. Creative solutions are so often borne out of changing a perspective.
Thank you for keeping that at the top of mind.

21 01 2013
Liz Arronson Rueven

Thanks for these important reminders and suggestions about how to allow VISION to be expressed. Allowing time and space for creative thinking is a great luxury and companies of all sizes would benefit from your incisive ideas here.

29 03 2013
Strategic Planning I: What is strategy? | Kelly Business Advisors, LLC

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