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Formulate a strategic plan

By Ruth Tearle

Are you developing a strategic plan with a team? Are you preparing for a strategy workshop? How do you design your strategic planning retreat so that your team achieves an end result you can all be proud of?

The end result of a successful strategic planning process is a powerful strategic plan, AND a team that is united and excited about their future. To achieve such results from a strategic development workshop, follow these 3 principles:

1. Begin with the end in mind.

Before you design your strategy agenda, agree on what you want to achieve by the end of your strategic planning retreat – then design your event to achieve your objectives. e.g. your objectives could include:

  • To discover what has changed in the last year, in the world surrounding your organization. How these changes impact on your customers. How your competitors are responding.
  • non-strategic-leaders
  • To consider how the new global economy, technologies, societal issues, environmental issues, and legislation will affect what your customers will value, and therefore how your organization should respond.
  • To anticipate the future, and begin preparing for it.
  • To use the creative power of a group, to create an exciting strategy. One that will allow your organization to:
    • Be profitable.
    • Give your customers something unique, some they are prepared to buy.
    • Exploit the strengths and capabilities of your organization.
    • Energize your employees.
    • Build a team united around a common vision of the future.
    • Allow your people to co-create their future.
Start with what you want to achieve.

Once you know what you want to achieve from your retreat, you can prepare the right ingredients for a retreat that will help you to achieve your specific objectives.

2. Prepare the right ingredients.

The ingredients for a successful strategic development or formulation workshop are:


2.1 People:

  • Ensure that the right people are there. That means people who need to contribute, want to contribute and are able to contribute
  • People attending need to really be there. To give their full attention to developing the strategic plan. In your invitation to delegates, you will need to explain that this session is different. It is participative. That it will require more from them. i.e.
    • Creativity.
    • Strategic thinking.
    • Team spirit.
    • Focus.

2.2 Information

If you want delegates to come up with new ideas, you need to expose them to new information. e.g. up to date information about:

strategic-facilitation2.3 Activities

Developing a common vision or strategic plan, does not come from talking, but from doing. The group needs to work though through a number of carefully designed activities that gets the team to:

  • Analyze: its current situation, what is happening in the world around it, stakeholder needs, competitor strategies.
  • Imagine: The future external environment, industry environment, customer needs, future inventions and competition.
  • Create: New opportunities. New products, services, distribution ideas.
  • Integrate: Use systems thinking to come up with a unique package of products and services that will allow them to delight future customers - in a unique way. Then create a strategy to show how every aspect of the organization needs to be tuned, to support their competitive advantage.

3. Mix the ingredients together together with high energy.

strategic-facilitationGetting a group to analyze, imagine, create and integrate requires a facilitator to use a range of techniques that help the group to stimulate both the left and right side of their brains. A skilled facilitator will use his/her knowledge of people and facilitation to:

  • Get a group to use appropriate thinking tools for each activity. e.g. completing tables for analytical work, brainstorming or right brained activities to stimulate the imagination, visual thinking to encourage creativity, and systems thinking for integration.
  • Create a climate that encourages team work and creativity.
  • Create high energy within the group to enhance creativity.
  • Create a spirit of competition between groups to increase energy.
  • Provide short sharp exercises lasting a maximum of 45 minutes each to keep the groups energized and focused.
Strategic development involves creating a spirit of adventure, discovery and achievement.

By mixing the ingredients of strategy in a creative way, a skilled facilitator can turn a strategic planning retreat into an exciting adventure in which individuals and groups can :

    • Discover an exciting future world.
    • Create a unique space for their organization to be successful within that future.
    • Unleash the creativity, fun, and team spirit that is hidden within many teams. Get people excited about their future.

The strategic plan that is documented after such as retreat is more powerful, exciting and implementable, than any pretend strategy.

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