Total solutions through strategic planning and organizational change and development
Planning and Preparing to Plan:
Initial work session with client to lay out a planning process
that makes sense for this client, given the current planning
structures of the organization and its unique planning needs.
Some of the questions related to this first meeting:
- Current circumstances of the organization?
- Tradition, norms, formats for planning?
- Major strategic challenges/opportunities?
- Readiness of the organization?
- Scope of planning needed and other expectations of the
- Overall planning vs. within each strategic business unit?
- Who should be involved?
- Time parameters?
- Internal planning staff coordinator with whom consultant
- Documents and information resources?
- Planning models employed/preferred and common terminology?
- Client verbalization of outcomes wanted and intentions
- Client concerns and preferences about planning?
- Conditions for successful outcomes needed by consultant?
- Work assignments from this first meeting?
Interviews/meetings with key players to identify perceptions,
ideas, concerns, expectations, and to pursue the right strategic
Analysis of data from interviews and documents reviewed,
report by consultant, recommendations for the format of the
planning process, and tentative list of key strategic questions...presented
first to the general manager and key planning staff. Decisions
made on approach to planning and basic schedule for it. Homework
distributed to participants.
Inquire Through a Strategic Audit:
Planning team gathers (2-3 days consecutively or spread
out) to review progress over the past performance period,
to identify areas of success and areas where the organization
has fallen short, to identify and understand learnings, and
to identify apparent areas of strategic deliberation key
to choices in planning for the upcoming performance period.
If the organization uses a Balanced Scorecard structure for
its planning, then that scorecard or dashboard serves as
a focal point for assessing internal achievements on chosen
parameters of the prior plan.
Planning team explores the major categories of strategy
by conducting an inquiry of each:
Major Categories of Strategy:
- Environment (competition, technology, regulations, demographics,
- Products offered (maturity of product lines, branding,
research and development, pricing, an inside-out view)
- Market/customer needs, share, and relationships (market
segments, emerging needs, market penetration, account
relationships, outside-in view)
- Core/distinct capabilities (the processes of great strategic
import, which must be the best for the business to succeed
vs. those secondary processes that might better be outsourced)
- Results achieved (financial analysis, modeling, and planning;
size and rate of growth)
Audit Questions within Each Category:
- What is currently the pattern in this area of choice?
How are we performing in this area?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses for us in this
area? What is special about us?
- What are the opportunities and threats for us in this
- Overall, how critical is this given category of strategy
either as an advantage to leverage or a vulnerability
to protect or preempt over the period for which we are
- What additional information do we need?
Review of mission and vision of the organization. Does the
audit just conducted raise questions about either the mission
or vision of the organization? What dimension(s) of these
statements should be put on the planning agenda?
After auditing the five categories of strategy, the challenge
for the planning team will be to determine the appropriate
driving force to serve as the foundation for the strategic
Determine the Driving Force:
Determine which of the strategic categories is most important
to the business and therefore should serve as the cornerstone
of the business plan, the driving force of the strategic
framework of the business. Other names for the "driving force" are "the
strategy" or "value discipline" or "strategic script." The
driving force affects all other choices. The driving force
stays constant, and everything else changes accordingly as
needed. In battles over priority or resource allocation,
the driving force wins. All categories of the strategic framework
are important, but the one that is the driving force is most
So which category within the strategic framework should
be this organization's driving force?
- Its core capabilities? (Compete on the basis of "Best Value" - "Operational
- The products that it offers? (Compete on the basis of "Best
Product" - being a "Product Leader" and providing a differentiated
- The emerging needs of its market? (Compete on the basis
of "Best Total Solution" - a focused relationship with a
chosen niche market, a "Customer Intimacy" approach to
- It is even possible that results wanted could be the
driving force, if all other decisions must be subordinated
to how much return is necessary or to how big the company
needs to get in order to have sufficient resources to achieve
a major goal. By definition the driving force of results
is temporary, a means to a greater end.
- The chosen driving force serves as this organization's
key to the pursuit of competitive advantage in the market
Planning team chooses a driving force, which will then serve
as the starting point in building a strategic framework for
the plan. The team spends some time anticipating the implications
of establishing this driving force. How will the rest of
the plan (the other categories of the strategic framework)
be affected by choosing this driving force? (In many ways
selecting the driving force determines what the rest of the
plan will likely look like, so it is very much worth the
time for serious deliberation and deep dialogue. The likely
timing of this discussion and selection of the driving force
is to do it during the same meeting as the strategic audit.
But if there is additional information needed between the
audit and the driving force discussion, then there needs
to be a time gap between the two. It also may be worth bouncing
it off of others in the organization, as well as to certain
select outside experts, and also key customers. It is at
this point as well that it is useful to hold large group
gatherings with many others of the organization participating,
which is sometimes called a "Strategic Future Search Conference," which
enables everyone to address the climate, the choices, the
anticipated barriers, and to in fact address the audit results
and the proposed driving force, at one time under one tent,
Get Feedback and Input from Others:
Do research needed to validate the selected driving force.
Involve others within and outside the organization in a
discussion of the strategic audit and driving force selection
Possibly plan and conduct a Strategic Future Search Conference
to build deeper and broader participation and buy-in across
This is an opportune time to test out the feasibility as
well as the validity of the proposed driving force and its
various implications for the rest of the strategic framework
before more planning is done. If there is time, this is a
good spot for demonstration projects to evaluate the proposed
directions for the new plan. (The time element here for this
middle time period between the strategic audit and the establishment
of a new strategic framework can vary greatly, but it ought
to be several weeks at any rate.)
The results of getting feedback and input from others, including
from tests and other research, are then carried forward into
the process of establishing a new strategic framework.
Envision a Strategic Framework:
Planning team takes the input from others and begins to
craft the framework for a strategic plan (in another 2-3
days consecutively or spread out). This begins with deciding
finally on the best driving force for the period of time
for which this planning is being done. There are questions
then that are answered for each strategy category, beginning
with the category which has been selected as the driving
force. The categories again are: products offered, market
positioning and share, core/distinct capabilities, results
wanted, and competitive advantages that will be used at the
center of the strategic plan.
- What do we want to achieve within this category? What
is our vision?
- What are our ideas for achieving what we want to within
this category? What strategic objective(s) do we want
to establish in this category? (Again, for each category
after the driving force, there are implications and givens
from the driving force for the respective category. There
are many impacts across the categories as they are fleshed
out, and these impacts must be considered as strategic
objectives are set.
- What is the gap between the current situation (from the
audit) and our preferences for the future? How much of
a stretch does the gap represent? Is the stretch reasonable
enough for us to endorse the initiatives to close the
- What shift do we intend to make from the past position
in this area?
- What is or will likely be blocking us from such achievement?
(The major blocks across all the strategic categories form
a "critical issues" list. These critical issues are all
those factors related to the business/organization, from
within and from outside, that must be addressed and resolved
in order for us to achieve our strategies. The critical
issues list and its assigned responsibilities serve as
a central focus for the action planning needed to implement
the new strategies.)
- Fundamentally what will we do to overcome the blocks
(critical issues) and to succeed with our strategic objectives?
- How will we know when we succeed in this area? What will
we measure? What will be our "success indicators" in this
When we have set a strategic objective or more for each
strategic category, starting with the one that is the driving
force, then we have completed the strategic framework.
If not before, now is a good time to look closely at the
parts of the mission and vision that we identified earlier
as likely needing attention and modification during this
planning process. It is most appropriate to do so after the
strategic audit, driving force, and strategic framework discussions,
because those discussions serve as major inputs or feeders
to the mission and vision modifications.
The framework discussions, category by category and then
looked at overall, represent the part of the total planning
process when there is the major interaction on ideas, the
best time for creative thinking "outside the box," and for
reconfiguring the reality uncovered during the audit phase
of the process.
Plan for Implementation and for the Management of
Write up the strategic plan (multiple if more than one strategic
business unit). This writing should be done by the client
organization, using the documentation of the planning sessions
prepared by the consultant and advice from the consultant,
because the language and the planning product needs to be
owned by the client. This is hard to accomplish if the consultant
does the writing.
Include the list of "critical issues" in the strategic plan,
as differentiated from any possible list of strategic issues
or strategic questions, which would have been identified
earlier in the process. Typical items on the critical issues
list are things like acquiring new machinery, upgrading systems,
hiring personnel with skill sets and experience that will
complement current employees, training, organization design,
building stronger teams, culture change initiatives, modifying
the workload of a given department, and the like. The list
of critical issues forms a passageway from the strategic
framework and its objectives to the more tactical implementation
plans for overcoming the blocks and impediments and for achieving
the objectives. This is the time to involve the rest of the
organization in the planning process, helping them apply
the strategic framework to the work of their divisions and
The implementation plan must identify responsibility for
all the followup planning tasks, the specific followup plans
that are expected, such as divisional and functional strategic
plans, annual operational plans, budgets, contingency plans,
It is recommended that there be joint followup planning
sessions for at least the people identified as having responsibility
for leading and delivering on the various followup plans,
especially if they have not been involved with the prior
strategic planning process.
All of the work in this implementation planning section
is done after the planning team puts together the strategic
framework. After the writing task is completed, the team
must formally endorse the strategic plan. This can be done
at a brief meeting, and that meeting can include decision
making about the critical issues list and the implementation
plan. Then the planning process on the part of the divisions
and functional units must be supported by staff and linked
to the overall strategic framework by the overall planning
team. If there are joint work sessions on the part of those
who are leading the divisional and functional planning, those
sessions need to be scheduled and coordinated by either members
of the overall planning team or by the consultant to that
Oftentimes there is a need to couple organization development
initiatives with the strategic planning process, such as
providing further development of the top management team
while that team is doing planning. That complementary activity
is then designed into the planning calendar.
The consultant serves the client system and its leadership
in a variety of ways during the planning process beyond working
at the meetings identified above in this planning process
description. This includes coaching and collaboration opportunities
with the organization's executive and with members of the
When the strategic planning process and related operational
planning are completed, there should be an opportunity to celebrate