Okay, you’ve decided that it’s time to create a strategic plan, or possibly update and refresh the one that you already have. Great. There will be logistical things to consider, such as when to get people together and where to hold it – on-site or off. And so on.
However, the most important element will be: what will actually go into the plan that signals an exciting way forward. Prior to that: where are these ideas going to come from?
There is usually no shortage of good ideas. Getting them all onto the table and into the discussion can be a bit trickier.
Sure, if the planning session were held in the shower, there would be no stopping people; isn’t that where we do our best thinking? Somehow, in a formal setting, these thoughts – which seemed so important at the time – can go completely out of our minds. You’ll be thinking, “I know I have some great ideas but none are coming to me right now…”
It can be difficult to come at idea-generation head-on. Preferably, you construct your planning agenda such that the people attending, including yourself, have been asked to jot down their notions of current strengths and weaknesses ahead of time and to bring them along. Over the course of a few days or weeks, important topics and ideas will emerge, including ones that could get forgotten completely otherwise.
It is important to allow people the freedom to include anything they think is an important idea. You don’t just want to focus on the ones that are currently in vogue within the industry or segment. Critical success factors for an organization ebb and flow and may well be related to parts of the organization that don’t always share in the limelight: finance, product development, sales, customer care, billing, logistics, human resources, and so on.
As part of the agenda, go around the room and let each person speak to their ideas. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of enthusiastic support from others when someone raises a point that is one of the proverbial elephants in the room that was considered too delicate to raise. It may be important to verbalize that everyone is actually paid to express their opinion. Not speaking up is not acceptable!
Having a rich collection of good ideas from different people helps to ensure that the strategic plan contains a balance of elements that were debated and prioritized in full by the participants. Because they were documented prior to the session, it helps to prevent one or two strong personalities from taking over the agenda and leading the discussion down a single garden path.
It could be that some of the quieter, more introspective, individuals have been doing some informal research on best practices in their process area (or, if not best practices, at least other practices). Someone else may sense some generalized disengagement somewhere in the organization that isn’t being picked up on by others which, if left unaddressed, could undermine all of the best-laid plans by Marketing.
Yes, big topics will still form the bulk of the agenda – everyone is reading the same set of blogs by thought leaders – which is great, but you don’t want to leave the overall successful performance of your organization to chance. You owe it to yourselves to allow all good ideas to be heard.