One of my clients famously likened strategic planning to something that Stalin did, so I’m hoping the illustration with the pooch might make this a bit more enjoyable. Think of our four-legged friend as your team, and the statue as your company. You know you have the raw material to create what you want, you just need to organize and begin.

I’ll state this at the beginning of each part of this series because it forms the core of what I believe. The primary benefit of strategic planning isn’t just the plan itself. It’s the result of what happens when stakeholders come together, often for the first time, to work as a team.

We all know the cliché, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and, in my experience, it’s true. Taking the time to create a plan matters, and as important as the resulting plan is, working with one another, particularly those you’ve not worked with before, is the often-overlooked payoff in this process.

Phase One: Initiation and Discovery

In working with clients, I have them create a Strategy Task Force (STF) to lead the process. It’s called a Task Force and not a Committee for a reason. A Task Force comes together, for a limited time, to perform a specific task, and then disband. It’s important, particularly when asking people to take on additional work, that they know this is not an assignment that will last into perpetuity. Depending on the size and the willingness of the company, we’ll tap key people from diverse departments to bring as many perspectives to the table as is practical.

From there it’s on to reviewing performance data from the past 3 – 5 years, creating an interview schedule with current and past clients, current and past employees, board members (if applicable,) and other key stakeholders. A timeline and deliverables map for the planning process is produced. That means creating specific measurable results, to be accomplished by specific dates, with one person responsible for each main result.

I’ve found it useful to channel most all communication through the STF. It gives the members a sense of ownership, they bond quickly as a team, and all involved seem to treat peer-to-peer requests with respect and follow through on completing them. This is the Honeymoon Phase. People are excited, change is in the air, and it feels like all things are possible. It won’t last, and that’s actually a good thing. This Friday: Baseline Assessment.