Strategic planning process: Example,
Centurian Software and Grow International have merged to
form Grow USA. Initial real time strategic decisions
have been made as part of the merger / joint venture process,
but there is now an opportunity and a need for more reflective
strategic alignment among the major players of the new Grow
USA. The President of Grow USA, Ron Krueger, is looking
for a strategic planning process facilitator to lead such
a process for Grow USA during November and December 1997. John
Johnson of Changemaking Systems is submitting this proposal
for such an engagement.
1. Interview each of the ten Grow USA leaders that
will participate in the planning process. The interview will
be focused on finding out what the key strategic questions
are for the company at this juncture of its life, to ignite
the strategic thought process of individuals prior to the
planning sessions, and to build the Grow USA strategic content
agenda for the planning sessions.
2. Design the strategic content agenda for the planning
sessions, so that the key, timely strategic issues specific
and unique to Grow USA in late 1997 are addressed.
3. Gain Ron Krueger's buy-in on the content agenda
and make necessary modifications.
4. Communicate the agenda and process for the planning
sessions to all participants, including whatever pre-session
homework assignments seem valuable considering the agenda.
5. Facilitate the sessions. Document the proceedings,
outcomes, critical discussion themes. Prepare and distribute
reports to all participants after each planning session,
while also setting up the subjects and preparations needed
for the next planning session. Meet with Ron
Krueger and perhaps other individuals between planning session,
sharpening the focus, anticipating and preparing for developments
and possible needs for modifications in the agenda and /
or process, and looking forward to the applications of the
planning product to business decisions.
6. Assist Ron Krueger with the preparation of a consolidated
report on the strategic planning initiative, a strategic
plan for Grow USA.
7. Throughout the planning sessions several different
group planning processes will be employed as needed. The
following are some examples:
time, even during the meeting and preceding group brain storming
process, a structured means to generate ideas in a balanced
fashion across the group
subgroup, structured conversations in reference to specific
questions, usually groupings of 2 or 3
on specific positions or on research tasks
of definite differences of opinion in dialogue fashion, focusing
on underlying assumptions first, and then doing critical
analysis of the options
applying criteria to decision making regarding strategic
to be evaluated by the group
excursionary, creative thinking
Possible work plan and content agenda, depending upon interview
information (presented only as an illustration and to estimate
1. Introduce the strategic planning task and process. Probable
introductions to strategic thinking concepts and a model. Report
on the strategic questions and other key themes from the
pre-session interviews that fed into the specific planning
2. Acknowledge and remind ourselves of the strategic
assumptions behind the merger and the related levers that
were intended. Reaffirm and gain alignment and / or
modify. All these assumptions, even when modified,
will be revisited and tested during the remainder of the
3. Develop the initial content for a Grow USA mission
statement. The final version of the mission statement
will be prepared later in the planning process. The
mission statement will either include statements of shared
values, or such statements will accompany the mission statement.
4. Before we get into the strategic planning per se,
the group will go through a visioning exercise that will
allow individuals to picture their preferred futures for
Grow USA for some point in time far beyond the start up stage. These
will be individual visions, then compared, and worked into
a shared and / or divergent vision. The vision will
also be revisited later in the planning process after specific
strategies have been discussed and likely diversity of thought
surfaced and explored.
5. Identify and agree to given factors at play in
the current business environment (supported by pre-session
questionnaire homework assignment): Internal strengths
and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats related
to the market, the competition, technological innovation,
demographics, economics, political and regulatory developments,
other patterns and trends. Determine the major factors
that represent the likely leverage points for competitive
advantage and the points of potential vulnerability that
should be neutralized. This sets the stage for the
building of a strategic framework to establish and utilize
competitive advantage for business decisions over the next
two (??) years. (Time scope has not been agreed to
Day one and each day will close with a review and evaluation
of the day's achievements, process, unfinished business,
(Depending upon the nature of the discussion on Day One,
Day Two may continue with unfinished analysis of business
environment factors. Or Day Two may start right out
with the following new agenda item.)
6. Build a strategic framework for business decisions,
one that will predictably establish and utilize competitive
Scope of services
and products - do what?
Scope of markets
and emerging market needs - for whom?
and processes - how?
Technology design and
Results - at
what return? To what desired size? How fast?
Select the "driving force" or "value discipline" from these
categories within the framework - the market needs, the products
offered, the core capability(ies), or the results wanted
- and become aligned as business leaders on what the central,
pivotal strategy will be for a period of time. The
remainder of the categories within the framework will then
be modified on the basis of the selection of the driving
force. The script for Grow USA achieving and utilizing
competitive advantage will be anchored in its driving force
and strategic framework.
7. Identify strategic objectives for a projected period
of time by identifying directions that are called for directly
or indirectly by the strategic framework. Come to full
agreement as a leadership group across the dimensions of
the organization regarding these strategic objectives.
8. Revisit, reconfirm, or modify the mission statement
and the shared vision for the preferred future of Grow USA.
9. Identify the critical issues (not strategic issues,
which have already been addressed) of the business and the
organization, that is, those factors that will likely inhibit
its progress in achieving its strategies unless they are
addressed. In the case of a new joint venture and mergers
such as Grow USA, many of these blocking issues relate to
the nature of a merger of organizations and making such a
merger work. This will be an opportune time to talk
about how things have gone so far regarding the merger and
what dynamics deserve most attention over the next few weeks. Even
without considering merger issues, the critical issue of
an organization usually include resource acquisition and
allocation, organizational design, human resources, various
systems, culture, the way differences and conflict are managed,
the processes of decision making and problem solving, leadership,
relationships internally and externally, public image, government
policy and laws, collection bargaining, and the capacities
of management in general. Identification and prioritization
of the most critical of these issues are part of the strategic
10. Identify the major implications for priorities
and expectations on the part of the various business units
and support divisions of the organization. The implications
come from the strategic objectives and from the assignments
to execute the objectives as well as the assignments to execute
plans to resolve each of the highest priority critical issues. Each
unit will then be expected to do its own strategic planning
to carry out those assignments.
11. Agree to a basic implementation plan related to
making the overall strategic plan happen and assign overall
accountability for the implementation. A major part
of the implementation plan is the plan to communicate to
all the stakeholders and employees of the company the results
to this point of the strategic planning effort and how the
plans relate to each of them. There will likely be
information that should be communicated to customers and
others outside the company. The communication plan
does not cover only one-way information flow. It should
also include processes for the engagement of other employees
and stakeholders in responding to the specifics of the plans
and in giving their input and reactions to the evolving plan,
so that the plan is made better and so that those affected
by it take ownership for it.
Day Four or Parts Thereof:
12. Identify the areas of the strategic plan that
are the more vulnerable to forces and challenges internally
and externally, and begin to establish contingency plans
for things not going as hoped or intended in these areas.
13. Discuss the reactions of others internally and
externally to the plan and make adjustments in the plan accordingly
and as desired.
14. Continue the strategic planning discussions perpetually
as progress is made and as situations change, especially
among customers and the competition. Make the strategic
planning document flexible, date the changes in the document,
and continue communicating those changes to all who will
be affected. Consider a much broader involvement of
other stakeholders in the strategic planning process in the
future, at least occasionally. Such large strategic
planning processes and events are often called "future strategic
search conferences." They are increasingly used by
organizations to build greater alignment regarding direction
throughout their organizations.
Possibilities for the Schedule of Sessions:
John Johnson interviews Grow USA leaders. Leaders
do homework questionnaire for first planning session.
Interviews continue. Analysis of interview data and
design of planning agenda as well as process.
John Johnson meets with Ron Krueger and perhaps others to
review the planning agenda and identify other information
needed or preparations to be made for session one.
Session one - full day of planning.
Prepare and distribute report on session one. Participants
do homework for session two.
John Johnson and Ron Krueger meet to pin down details for
Session two - full day of planning.
Prepare and distribute report on session two. Participants
do homework for session three.
John Johnson and Ron Krueger meet to prepare for session
Session three - full day of planning.
Prepare and distribute report on session three. Participants
do homework on follow-up to planning to day, initiating implementation
steps and bridging to the planning process for individual
John Johnson and Ron Krueger meet to assess state of the
plan and the process and to focus the subjects for session
four. Formal writing of strategic plan commences, if
it has not already.
Session four - partial day of planning and review of written
plan to date.
Prepare final planning session report and distribute same. Make
modifications and additions to strategic plan document.
December 5 or so:
Final meeting of John Johnson and Ron Krueger regarding
the strategic planning process. Possibilities of follow-up
work with the organization to implement the plan and / or
address the critical issues in the organization and regarding
the merger progress are discussed.