Increasingly, we are hearing and seeing signs of ‘strategic planning fatigue’ in all sorts of the organizations that we are approached by. This is what I heard from a member of a leadership team just this morning.
“We just cannot afford to do another strategic planning process. It is not the money so much as it is the time and the energy. The last one exhausted us all. By the time we got to implementation, we were so tired of even thinking about the strategic plan that it was all that we could do to mobilize people to carry out parts of the plan. So…we need a strategic plan and we don’t want to take the energy from our people to engage in another lengthy planning process. Our team knows the importance of having a strategic plan. We also know how important it is to pay attention to people’s energy. As a leadership team, we feel caught between a rock and a hard place.”
I offered an option that she was not aware of. I said that sometimes leadership teams feel that they need a new strategic plan when in reality, they would be better served with something that we refer to as a ‘strategic plan refresh’. Doing a strategic plan refresh respects the energy of the people and the leadership team. A strategic plan refresh is based on assumptions that a strategic plan is a living document; that it is almost impossible to accurately predict future events in our world of rapid change; that the people in an organization have the knowledge of what needs to be in place; and that having a strategic plan is of value.
Strategic Plan Refresh: The Program
The primary purpose of doing a strategic plan refresh is to ensure that the strategic plan and accompanying strategy map are relevant and useful. The planning can be accomplished in a short time frame with the energy needed for a sprint rather than a marathon. When we do a strategic plan refresh for an organization or project of 100 people or less, the steps include:
- A meeting with the leadership team to go through a checklist of what they have in place to lead a strategy focused organization (4 hours).
- If necessary, to undertake some strengthening of the leadership team (usual time frame 2 days).
- A Whole System meeting involving everyone that includes the opportunity to have conversations in relation to the existing strategic plan to identify what should be kept, increased, reduced, eliminated, and created (1 day, often divided as two ½ days).
- A Whole System meeting to identify themes, priorities, and refresh the strategies and sub-strategies (1 day).
When the organization is larger, everyone in the organization cannot attend the Whole System meetings. Instead, a representative mixture of the whole system participates. We often add a few steps, depending on the culture of the organization, and often having separate meetings with Human Resources and having an expanded leadership team meeting that includes division, department, and team leaders. Even with large organizations, the strategic plan refresh can be accomplished within a month.
Imagine accomplishing a strategic plan refresh over the period of one month, involving just a few days…and coming out of the process with a relevant, useful strategic plan!