The easiest and most difficult place to start your strategic planning

Have you ever sat at your desk and wondered what is the next thing you should do? Is the number of tasks and ‘should dos’ so large that you have trouble distinguishing any priority among them? This is a common situation for many of us in business. When it comes to creating a strategic plan this same situation arises, ‘where should I start?’ 

The reason this is the easiest place to start your strategic planning process is that it is the most obvious. It is the most difficult because it relies on you and your ability to spend time clearly considering many factors that will influence the success or failure of your strategic planning and execution.

I use and recommend defining the vision you have for yourself, your people and your business as the starting point. This may sound easy, but in my experience, personally and with clients, this is often the most difficult part of the strategic planning journey. I like to define vision as seeing the business operating at its peak or optimum state. It need not be related to being the largest or most popular.

A business that operates at its peak fulfils its purpose provide the best it can for its people, owners, customers and community.  If you are a business owner or CEO the vision stage starts with a deeply personal need to gain clarity. Gaining clarity is essential before you send out meeting invitations for ‘brainstorming’ sessions.

In what areas do you need to gain clarity? These will vary depending on your position, for example a business owner or employed CEO. Other considerations are exit strategies, time horizons, impact on people, stakeholder issues among others. If you are a business owner, have you lost touch with the vision that prompted you to start or buy the business in the first place? Are you able to deliver more wealth to shareholders? Are you the right person to drive and execute the strategic plan?

Treat strategic planning as a project. As you undertake the first process of defining the vision and all the factors included in it, these are some recommendations:

  • write down everything you think about.
  • include potential impacts to the people, business and stakeholders.
  • use a two- column positive/negative analysis for ideas and initiatives you are unsure about.
  • consult people in your network that can offer some objective analysis of your work.
  • research competitors locally, nationally and internationally by looking at websites, reviews and LinkedIn profiles.

All this information is going to be used in the other stages of your strategic planning process, so it is important that it is curated so you can easily search for and find information later.

Your business can be written as a narrative, story or in a report style with bullet points. Regardless of how you document your vision, I like to encourage people to synthesise their vision into one or two statements that are easily communicated to the people, customers and other stakeholders of the business. To be effective this statement must be clear, measurable, relatable and relevant.

Now that you have done the hard work, you have a framework to use when engaging others in the strategic planning process.

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Reinvent Meetings for Creativity and Engagement

It is possible to transform the paradigm that all meetings are wasting valuable time and contribute little to the organisation and its people You can reinvent your meetings to boost creativity and engagement. It just takes a bit of innovation.

When people think of meeting they typically think of people around a table engaging in conversation around an agenda. According to a report by Atlassian, a person may spend up to 31 hours in unproductive meetings per month. Adding to this scenario, 91% of people daydreamed and 73% did other work during meetings.

Meetings can boost creativity.

There is plenty of other evidence available that points to meetings having negative impacts on productivity in the workplace. However, there are some ways you can innovate to make your meetings more engaging and constructive for those attending.

An article by Sara Coene on InnovationManagement.se, identifies some new meeting formats that will help boost creativity and engagement in meetings. I recommend you check out the article and I have summarised the ideas here.

Inspiration Tours are visits to inspiring companies, organisations or other venues. Sara points out examples in Silicon Valley, Antwerp and Brussels. There are plenty of great organisations that will welcome an opportunity to host a tour and presentation that showcases their talents.

Start-up Events are excellent to get people discussing ideas and capturing insights into new ways of innovating. There are start- up incubators in most cities and these events are usually publicised.

Pecha Kucha means ‘small talk’ in Japanese. These structured events allow participants to present 20 pictures in a slide deck in 6 minutes and 40 seconds; each picture shown for 20 seconds. The article points to a 80% success rate for these presentations with thorough presenter preparation the most probably success factor.

Notes Day engages people in small groups starting first with their own team and move to other departments. The focus is on the most relevant issues facing the organisation as put forward by the participants.

World Café is often used in workshops and training events. However, the World Café format is an effective way to achieve high levels of dialogue and collaboration. Participants discuss a topic around a table hosted by person who remains at the table while others circulate to other tables. This format is excellent for ensuring ideas are captured.

There are other meeting formats described in the article and I encourage you to have a look. You can innovate to make your meeting more effective, fun and engaging.