14 Ways to Co-create a Strategic Framework and Get Buy-in

Having trouble making sense of the strategy everyone bought into a year ago? Wondering if the organization isn’t equipped for the challenges you face?

Some say that culture eats strategy for lunch suggesting that the two are mutually exclusive and that one is superior. Under pressure for being touchy-feely, culture fans like to strike out at strategy as being rigid and unbending in the face of constant change.

How about we see them as twins rather than opponents?

How about co-creating strategy so that organizational buy-in happens as you proceed and organizational culture is supported?

Here’s an approach that many clients have successfully utilized:

Take the longer view that the new overall strategic framework will take some time to be fully realized.

Work with the notion that the new strategy must be proactive and innovative to meet ever-evolving, and usually unknowable, needs and change.

Understand that the plan is a beginning point / framework and that the outcomes, over time, will likely be influenced by other emergent forces.

Create a stronger sense of opportunity and accountability to collaborate among the organization and help make the new strategy work despite the unknowns.

Use dialogue sessions to come to an initial common understanding of the larger needs of both the organization and key partner / stakeholder groups (including the customer).

Understand and leverage the team’s capability to influence and enable change. Help them by focusing on solutions, not the SWOT analysis.

Move away from the perspective of silos and reactive work-arounds.

Understand the value of building a business case that enables decision- making; making decisions about the unknown are critical to progress.

Seek participatory dialogue and insights from the key partner / stakeholders.

Leverage candor and transparency – challenging the status quo leads to better ideas.

Ensure a focused and dynamic planning dialogue so that it can be distilled into a comprehensive plan.

Ensure that operational planning can be undertaken following the plan’s approval.

Work on the basis that change begins within the planning work, not once the plan is approved.

Create early ideas for action (test and learn, small wins) that will be visibly useful to all.

Solution focus: an enabler of strong strategic frameworks.


Tips for Solutions Driven Strategic Planning

Want to get more out of strategic planning? Much more!

Want to make it a creative, concrete way to move the organization move forward right away?

How many times have you seen a SWOT analysis tilting to one side because the Threats and Weaknesses outweighed the Strengths and Opportunities? Why do planners, bless them, love to focus on the first two and skip lightly over the latter? Why do teams build their plans on the things they already know are not working?

Let’s not even bother answering those problem focused questions. Instead…

Here’s some of the solutions-driven questions used at the recent AMA Toronto strategic planning session:

What’s already working?

VIDEO: AMA Strategic Planning July 2011

What does the research tell us needs to be different?

What are the 5-6 most useful questions we need to answer in the planning work?

Suppose be made progress in the next three years, what would be better?

What outcomes would our key stakeholders, especially the various member groups be doing as a result?

How would do we see that be useful to our partners?

Suppose we focused on 5-6 strategic priorities, what would they look like?

Suppose our plan was communicated widely, what people see us doing?

View the outcome of using this approach: (Video)

Want details on using Solution Focus (and a pinch of process) to power up your planning? See page 62 of my book; Fry the Monkeys – Create a Solution

4 ways stakeholder consultation planning changed conversation in a town

What sort of results would you want from a stakeholder consultation in your town? Here’s the outcomes from the June 15, 2011 Port Hope planning consultation

Duncan Mackinnon, one of the the contributors to the town’s brand planning kindly answered my four questions.

Video: stakeholder planning consultation

1. What were the top 4 things that worked to bring HBIA group together, then to bring the stakeholders together?

Concerned downtown business owners in Port Hope began to talk among themselves about the decline in retail traffic by both visitors and locals. Initially, the mood was pessimistic and there was an “us” vs. “them” type of attitude.

Informal discussions quickly became more formal using the HBIA (Historic Business District Business Improvement Association). An additional HBIA committee was formed to focus on strategy with the group recruiting people with a mix of skills and experience to work on solutions.

An outside professional facilitator was engaged to mobilize the group. Information technology and social media played a huge role in quickly/collectively sharing news and ideas.

This group quickly realized the need to consult with a broad range of stakeholders who are concerned about the town’s future and that the issue was larger than just trying to fix downtown.

Effective Teamwork came into play as the committee reached out to people they knew at Town Hall, in business/industry, education, service clubs.

The Roundtable meeting that resulted with all parties under one roof was an enormous success in building morale. And, putting thoughts into motion.

2. You saw the facilitator using solution focus throughout the process, i.e., leading up to, and in particular at the stakeholder session. What were some of the things you noticed that worked for both HBIA and the stakeholders?

The solution based focus very quickly got everyone down to work and allowed for “pent up” positive ideas to come forth. It clearly helped to avoid getting bogged down in negative, defensive dialogue. The resulting sense of teamwork and word-on-the-street, positive vibe would not have been felt possible by many.

The result has been a major turnaround in attitudes and has got people thinking that anything is possible.

3. What did you see or hear happening in the few days afterwards?

The best phrase I can come up with is “A fire has been lit!”. Early, I mean at breakfast time, the very next morning, there was a buzz up and down the main street about the incredible meeting held at Molson Mill.

That morning, the town’s Tourism and Economic Development department staff were calling on shopkeepers asking what needed to be done and how they could help.

Town Council members were “pumped” and looking for ways to quickly implement the ideas discussed.

The email, Facebook and Twitter traffic was jumping with positive comments and COMMITMENTS.  It certainly demonstrated that such a coming together, in a positive way, was long, long overdue.

4. What steps do you see the group taking to make the learning and the actions sustain over time?

It’s critical to “Strike while the Iron is hot” so that we do not lose momentum. A top line thank you note and YouTube video link were sent to all participants by email. The video , with description, was also posted on Facebook and on various community websites. A follow up meeting is scheduled within 7 days. Also important is the identification of skilled new recruits who attended the session, to help implement ideas.