Planning Techniques

Ghost Writer

If you asked your closest partnering organization write down strategic goals for your organization and then did the same for them, what would be the result?  Would they focus on the same initiatives that you have selected?  Would they define your organizational purpose in-line with how you perceive yourself?  Would they apply your resources in a similar fashion or uncover a new arrangement?

Why not ask them to partner and hold a 90 minute table top session and see what the results reveal?  It could be illuminating or even revolutionary for your cause.

Seth Godin’s blog today speaks to the power of planning with the buddy system.


Most organizational planning sessions have the noblest of intentions. I frequently hear the following phrases in the preparation stage for a retreat.

Let’s really get our hands around the future of the organization.
We want to solve the big problems.
Everyone will know exactly what to do when we leave.
We can do this in a day.

I noticeably shutter when I hear those words. I am the first to champion enthusiasm and passion. An energetic group is usually a positive when facilitating as I do not have to spend lots of time getting the participant’s energy to somewhere above consciousness. As you enter and depart the retreat, the delta between an organization’s expected outcomes and that which was accomplished during the retreat is often sobering. Sometimes the list of expected outcomes looks like the paint the house, clean the garage, and mow the lawn in a Sunday afternoon schedule. A fact that has become increasingly clear to me is that the organization are going forward down their respective highways at 65 or 70 MPH. Nobody is going to pull off the road for a retreat. There is no motivation to come to a full and proper stop. The inertia of the organization’s speed is rarely taken into account when the planning process commences.

American Public Media’s Markeplace radio show had a facinating interview with K.C. Cole. She gave the following example,
“We all know that it takes energy to get started on something, whether it’s propelling yourself out of bed or propelling a rocket to Mars. What we don’t tend to appreciate is how hard it is to stop what you’re already doing. In fact, it’s relatively easy to blast your way to a distant planet compared to what it takes to slow down your spacecraft once you get there.”

Many organizations never calculate the force required to slow or alter their organization’s current path. The end result after the planning retreat is that the enterprise plots a path for the moon but remains in its current orbit with a few adjustments. It is not cyncial, it is science. Few people in the room consider the enormous amount of energy and time required to get people to act or move in a different direction.

Our current economic times have put tremendous pressures for change on financial institutions and yet the resistance to change has been extraordinary. Few calculated how difficult it would be to help banks dramatically alter what they had always done.

How do you account for your organization’s momentum when you commence planning? Which forward motion can serve you organization? Who is going to monitor the changes you wish to make? Do they have the power necessary to alter the organization’s course? How much energy is it going to take?

The K.C. Cole Marketplace interview can be listened to here:

Blame Storming

A bit of humor to start the week and a reminder that strategic planning can go wrong. I have participated in planning sessions that verged on ‘blame storming.’ One of the techniques that seems to be effective in altering the blaming process comes from Tony Robbins. I ask three questions, when I see a group focusing on a micro details that are not going to be the cornerstone in establishing a strategic vision. First, what outcome is the group trying to achieve (describe what success looks like)? Next, describe why reaching this outcome important (get clarity about the emotional investment in achieving success)? Third, what are the key action steps that need to be taken (now I am seeking more detail)? This technique seems to help raise the conversation to an altitude of 30,000 feet (outcome) and then work back down to the ground-level (key details). Now enjoy a short video of what comes easiest to many people when frustrations run high.