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John Spence has studied strategic planning and facilitated strategic planning retreats for more than 25 years for companies of great brand recognition and firms of all sizes in an amazing array of sectors, products, and services. He is a long-time guest instructor at the Wharton School of Business on strategic planning and strategic thinking. Although strategic planning can be made to be exceedingly complex, John believes in making it is simple and concise as possible and has three major philosophies that drive his strategic planning methodology.
All effective strategy is simply: Valued Differentiation multiplied by Disciplined Execution
You must bring something to the marketplace that is unique and compelling, that your target customer values, is difficult if not impossible for your competition to copy, and you can consistently execute flawlessly. Although this sounds rather simple, in reality, it is very challenging to create a strategy that meets this criteria.
There is a saying often used in the computer coding arena; garbage in = garbage out. A competent facilitator can successfully drive a leadership team through all the pertinent strategic planning processes, but if the quality of thinking that goes into the process is not superb, then it does not matter how well you do the process; you will still come out with a flawed plan. John pushes very hard to get high quality strategic thinking to ensure a high quality strategic plan.
Equal time for strategic execution planning
One of the reasons so many strategic plans fail and end up gathering dust is because not enough time was spent on planning how to implement and execute the plan. John will work with your team to ensure that detailed execution plans are created and a system for follow-up, accountability, and disciplined execution is instituted.
John’s approach to facilitate the strategic planning process
After initial conversations with key contributors such as senior managers, executive team, and the board of directors to understand the organization and their industry, John will customize confidential surveys for those participating in the strategic planning process and attending the meeting.
John will send the primary client contact additional information on strategy and strategic thinking to share with the attendees so they are fully prepared for the meeting.
On the day of the facilitation, John will begin the meeting with a brief discussion on the key elements of strategic thinking and creating a successful strategic plan. He will then share the survey results with the group for careful consideration.
He will break the group into small teams to avoid “groupthink” and the possibility of more dynamic individuals attempting to control the meeting. The goal is for the group to analyze the survey results and distill it to the most critical elements to form the strategic plan.
The teams will present their findings and work together to synthesize the reports into a highly focused overview of what the collective group agrees to be the major strategic objectives of the plan.
Next, John will facilitate a discussion focused on the proposed tactics and execution of the strategic objectives. These tactics are not cast in stone, but rather ideas and suggestions the various business units can use as a foundation for developing their specific tactics and action steps for implementing the strategic objectives as defined by the senior team.
- During the meeting, John serves in several roles as the facilitator:
- Laying out the framework for the day and setting clear boundaries.
- Keeping the pace moving and focused.
- Ensuring that one or two individuals do not overpower the other members in the meeting.
- Ensuring all attendees are participating and offering ideas.
- Offering ideas and suggestions, especially in areas that are delicate or contentious.
- Striving for commitment and consensus on the strategic objectives.
- Underlining the importance of clarity of the strategy and disciplined execution of the tactics to reach the strategic objectives.
- Summarizing key findings from the entire meeting and following up with a memo to further clarify the results of the day and offer suggestions or concerns.
This outline constitutes a very full day of work that will yield a focused and reasonable set of key strategic objectives that can be used as the foundation for the business units to complete the full strategic plan.
The next step is to share this general strategy outline with the business units/individuals that will be tasked with implementing the strategy. John will make several recommendations to the leadership team about how to create a culture of accountability and ensure that the plan is effectively implemented.
After the business units/individuals complete their action plans, they are submitted to the senior management team for review. Typically, John will then reconvene with the senior management team for a half-day to study the proposed action plans and make any necessary adjustments. The feedback from the senior management team is returned to the business units/individuals to fine-tune and incorporate the recommendations and changes. At this point, we have created a solid draft of the plan that can be delivered to the board or executive team for input, changes or ratification. Once approved by the leadership team, it is the responsibility of the senior management team to ensure the plan is effectively executed.
It is critical to remember that even the best plan is useless if it is not executed effectively, so it is essential that the required time, energy and effort is also placed on making sure the execution plan, metrics and accountability measures are put in place to turn the great ideas in the strategic plan into action for your organization.
This formula is not set in stone and John is always open to change or adjustment in order to customize this process for your organization and the goals you want to achieve in your strategic planning process.
Contact John and his team today to learn how he can help you create a focused and effective strategy and execution plan.