Traditionally, strategy has been the domain of a select group of planners – sometimes external consultants. Many organisations are now seeing that the complexity we experience as part of our daily lives, often makes this approach less than effective. The select few have a hard time successfully incorporating the whole picture.
Plans sit on shelves and are rarely referred to as a guide to direction or decision making. The Board believe that everyone understands the strategy and are headed the same way, then wonder why the behaviour and results don’t seem to match the strategy. The forecast figures become a kind of fictional view of what is likely to be delivered ‘on the ground’.
Frequently these failings of strategy arise because those who are working day-to-day in the system have not be involved. Their understanding and commitment has not been garnered in:
- Establishing the realistic current context
- Imagining and connecting to the creative possibilities for the future
- Agreeing how best to get there
- Committing to how they will be involved in making it happen.
While individual experts can certainly bring data and specific skills (such as analysis and statistical modelling), participative strategic planning makes the most of all the skills and knowledge, while creating an in-built momentum for implementation.
Planning and implementation occur simultaneously:
- The purpose is understood
- The plans have meaning
- The people are ready for action together
- What is implemented closely reflects what is intended.
Through involving all those who are affected by the strategy, either directly or as part of the whole system (see Large Scale Events for more on this), experience shows that tougher choices and bolder strategic moves are often made. This propels the organisation or community further forward than an expert strategy ‘communicated’ for others to deliver without question.
The starting point may not be a completely blank sheet. If the leadership team has a strong vision to share and ideas about how to achieve the vision, this can also be a stimulus for participative planning and implementation.
Active processes for using and reviewing the agreed plans on an on-going basis are also designed in.
From first hand experience as an international corporate planner in a major multinational, Romy Shovelton, Wikima director, is passionate about offering another approach to the art of strategic planning. Wikima offers a range of processes to bring planning alive through participation and co-creation. These processes enable you to:
- Understand the full context: unearth the breadth and depth of real issues by involving all the stakeholders; thoroughly scan the environment.
- Develop a balanced view of what is needed, by collectively examining the situation from a series of perspectives specifically designed to provide a whole picture.
- Use creativity, imagination and a broad sense of possibility, to elicit potential scenarios of the future.
- Create a shared and meaningful overall purpose and ‘preferred future’, to propel everyone forward (rather than holding them back in problem solving from the present).
- Involve as many people as possible in aligning purpose, mission, vision and values before establishing strategic goals together.
- Examine the implications of the strategy and how it might best be implemented.
- Involve everyone in working together to refine and implement the strategy, including goals and action plans that have meaning at a team and personal level.
- Agree participative processes for ongoing monitoring, review and revision of the plans.