Part 2: Organizing and Executing Your Strategic Planning Session
Part 1 in this series emphasized planning the logistics of the strategic planning session. Significant planning aspects that deal with the content and preparation for addressing the content portions of the plan itself were also discussed. Part 2 addresses these needs and formation and organization of the planning session itself. The critical part of this component that must occur before the planning session can take place is:
- Analysis and synthesis of the results of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) and Issues surveys. This is the responsibility of either the independent facilitator or the person in the practice who has the lead responsibility for conducting the planning session.
- Based on the results of the above item, a report should be developed that will be presented, reviewed, modified, and accepted by the participants of the planning session. This will set the direction for the deliberations that will take place during the session. These deliberations form the basis upon which the practice’s strategic plan will be drafted.
The report should consist of the following:
- Definition of the major categories of response in the SWOT and Issues surveys. These may be considered as themes for the specific responses. These themes in turn will form the basis for the overarching strategies of the plan which can be identified as either goals or grand strategies
- Reduced duplication of the individual responses so that there is a focus for the participants. Also, as part of this activity, the volume of response to the specifically synthesized item can be defined. This latter data component provides an indication of the intensity and pervasiveness of the response.
The analysis and synthesis begins as the interpretation of a single person. It must be presented at the beginning of the planning session with time allowed for discussion, modification, and eventual approval by the participants. Consensus and approval of the modified report will drive the remainder of the planning session.
The next major planning task that needs to be completed prior to the planning session involves organizing the participants into distinct work groups that will be assigned to study and develop specific action-oriented strategies to address a grand strategy and/or strategic issue. These work groups will deliberate on their specific charge and will report on progress of hurdles during the planning session.
These work group deliberations will form the draft Practice Strategic Plan. Therefore, there must be a means by which these deliberative activities are documented and retained for construction of the draft plan. Where applicable technology needs to be employed.
In addition to the specific strategies and action plan, the practice participants have to recognize that certain driving values and traditions of the practice exist that overarch all the practice’s activities. These need to be documented and included in the final draft plan as “Value Statements.” They are declarations that create the parameters and operational environment in which the practice will function.
An optional measure that could be built into the draft plan during the planning session meeting are evaluative statements that will be used to measure and asses the success of the specific strategies within the plan. If these are not defined during the meeting they need to be done when the plan is provided for formal approval. These have various designations. However, what appears to be the most descriptive of them is “Measures of Success.”
Finally, the participants could develop a vision and practice mission statement that brings together the various facets and components of the draft strategic plan.
Implementing the Plan
First, not all the strategies and issues defined are equal in their levels of impact and importance to the practice. Also, some may be easier to implement than others. Others, while important may be impossible to implement. It is necessary to establish a priority rank order by which to arrange the strategies of the plan by their level of importance and difficulty of accomplishing the desired outcomes. This is critical because only a limited number (3 to 5) can be accomplished over a certain time.
As prelude to the implementation, each of the strategies within each grand strategy should be priority ranked and assigned a level of difficulty to complete. An excellent tool for this activity is using a 3´3 matrix to assign relative priority to each component of the strategic plan. However, it is crucial to define what will constitute a certain ranking. For example, if “high, medium, and low priority” is used there must be a standard definition for what constitutes each of these ranking parameters. The same applies for the other axis of the matrix. If “easy, difficult, or impossible” is used, each element must be defined so that there is consistency in the ranking assignment made for each strategy.
It does not matter what descriptors or elements are chosen. What matters is that a clear and consistent definition is used when ranking them.
Management of the Implementation
A classical management dictum states: “Make a plan and then work your plan.” The easy part of this work is making the plan. The hard part is working your plan through its implementation. Why is this true? Mainly because of the notion that once we have a plan we have completed the task and somehow its implementation will flow automatically without any need to manage and direct the implementation. Unfortunately, this has proven not to be the result. Too often plans are filed away and forgotten within 6 months. This happens because of a lack of recognition that implementation is a “work in progress” and its activity must be timed and monitored by the leaders of the practice.
Organizations that recognize this will empower an implementation team to have responsibility to oversee the implementation. This team will have a direct reporting responsibility to the leadership of the practice. Various management tools such as time specific project work programs are used to schedule and monitor work. In some instances, compensation is used as another motivator to get the job done. Other incentives could be used that fit within the practice’s accepted culture.
Evaluation of the plan’s progress and the achievement or lack of success are also tools to manage the implementation of the plan.
At least once a year the plan should be reviewed and modified depending upon completion status and by changes in the internal and external operating environment. In 4 to 5 years, the current plan should be “blown up” and a new plan developed.
Finally, the suggested approaches in this series can be modified. They are a detailed framework which a practice can tailor to meet its specific nature and environment.
For the first installment, read Strategic Planning for Office Practices: Part 1.
Dr Rosenthal is principal of The Kaleidoscope Associates, LLC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.