When thinking about strategic planning, the common approach is to engage external consultants to provide facilitation and independent guidance for the organisational subject matter experts comprising; Executive teams, Staff, Members (NfP), Shareholders (for Profit) etc to design the future for the organisation (looking forward 3, 5 or even 10 yrs).
Once completed and endorsed by the governance board, the strategic plan is delegated to management to deliver and can more commonly be placed in a drawer and referenced at the AGM, when the annual report states that everything is on track and progressing to plan.
Can we see the plan?
Can we see the key milestones at critical points of the road-map?
Is there a road-map?
How do we know that everything is progressing?
What are the key milestones?
What should we be observing at these milestones?
What we have observed is that the actual delivery of the strategic plan is in danger of becoming a ‘happening’ as opposed to a carefully planned road-map.
Let’s think of it like planning a major holiday.
To know where you want to go on holidays is dependent on your current environment; if you’re married or single; have no kids, young kids or older kids; if you’re yearning an activity or relaxing holiday; a single or multiple destinations; do you want cold arctic or alpine adventure or tropical temperate heat?
You’ll have a lot of dreams and expectations of how your holiday will be, maybe it’s a checklist (visit this or taste that etc) maybe it’s to improve on a previous personal best to ski the down the black run in 2 mins or hike the more difficult tracks.
Now you know where you’re going and why, you can start to pack, book, plan, not forgetting to consider ‘what could go wrong’ and buy insurance, copying your key travel docs and cancelling the milk and appointments..
In this example of planning your holiday you have just completed a “common sense” approach for planning any type of change; project, program, portfolio or delivery of an organisational strategic plan.
We now have a solid understanding of:
your current environment
what the target state looks like
why this is important to get there
how you will see, touch and measure success
This may seem over simplistic, which is the intention, there is no need to make it complicated.
Why then do organisations launch a change by announcing the solution, time-frame and cost without having a full understanding of the current environment (what’s the problem we’re trying to solve)?
Bringing it back to planning your holiday, would you buy skis and winter sports insurance for a holiday in July (northern hemisphere) before checking with your family (partner and 3 children under 4yrs) / stakeholders on what their expectations are? You may have wasted the effort and funds when you really needed a resort beach holiday with kids club to get well earned R&R.
When framing up a project or any change activity, it’s imperative that all key stakeholders (preferably in the same workshop) are consulted to:
fully understand the problem to be solved
gain agreement on the target state
why this will be good
how this will be measured
Only then will you gain agreement that this is either still a good idea or it doesn’t stack up and you should not proceed. If it does stack up, assign a team to start planning.
Going into solution mode before agreeing on the following is a recipe for disaster:
1) the problem to be solved,
2) the target state and
3) why this is a good activity to do
Over the years we have seen that common sense isn’t as common as you would think, and the approach we use delivers results every time, whether it’s project, program, portfolio or designing the road-map to deliver organisational strategic plans.
It may appear simple, because it is.
Contact us if you would like a consultation on how we can help your organisation keep it simple and enjoy your benefits faster with no surprises.
We can support your road-map design, portfolio delivery scheduling, program framing, project framing and the embedding of good governance to ensure that the initiatives stay on track, deliver results on time on budget to quality with no surprises.