Six Big Stakeholder Opportunities in Planning Strategy

Taking the potential for stress out of planning isn’t easy. In fact, though it’s usually unnecessary, anxiety is a reasonable thing to expect.

Hot Docs, Strategy, Brett Hendrie
Hot Docs Three-Year Plan video

Here’s an example of where an organization engaged various stakeholders in a series of collaborative events, collected feedback, insights, and suggestions and then turned them into a dynamic 3-year plan.

What are the 6 opportunities to dismiss anxiety and, instead, engage in collaborative goal setting?

  • Engage to identify the needs and aspirations of stakeholders, in particular, customers. Don’t forget the staff are stakeholders too.
  • Put time and resources aside to prepare for participation; collect insights and suggestions.
  • Set organizational goals in collaboration with the stakeholders.
  • Foster greater acceptance by staff of the need to take responsibility for developing and implementing plans that work in the rough and tumble of the real world.
  • Follow through on the learning and insights by sharing the plan widely.
  • Help stakeholders achieve value from the collaborative learning – you’ll need them as you implement the plan.

More tips:

Avoid SWOT thinking that emphasizes analyzing the weaknesses and threats.

We have been indoctrinated to believe that you must know the cause before you can do something about the problem – Insoo Kim Berg

Listen empathetically to people’s complaints about the problems they perceive, acknowledge them and move on.

Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices – William James

Build on the momentum of progress the organization is already making.

The purpose of each successive session is to assess change and to help to maintain it – de Shazer

Remember that when you are implementing the plan and unexpected complications arise, you’ll have the stakeholders on your side.

Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans – Allen Saunders

More on using Solution Focus in strategic planning: 4 Strategic Planning Co-creation Steps & Benefits


The endorsement:

Hot Docs Town Hall
Hot Docs Town Hall

“So many of our most successful initiatives have come from the unlikeliest sources, but always in the context of robust planning. Alan’s process has focused on collaborative conversations, mixing together our diverse stakeholders whose different perspectives often combine to create wonderful and spontaneous new ideas. What we’ve learned is that having our partners, customers and staff directly involved in the genesis of plans only amplifies their ability (and motivation) to support the final goals.”  – Brett Hendrie, ED, Hot Docs


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4 Strategic Planning Co-creation Steps & Benefits

Strategic co-creation planning…what’s that?

Co-creation to speed up understanding, buy-in, implementation

Many organizations, particularly those in the for-profit SME and the NFP sectors have, until now, operated well on the outdated annual programme/budget basis. Now, downward pressure on income and/or funding is revealing the lack of organizational skills in both management and programme development and delivery. They are ineffective and/or inefficient for new complex market conditions. Change has come calling at the door and the need for strategic outcomes-driven planning is overdue. Some even argue that strategic planning is outdated…

Traditionally, strategic planning takes time and requires expertise, often delivered from the outside. The experts examine the problems and devise solutions, goals, strategies, etc. The plan they deliver may be somewhere between ideal and flawed, but we can’t know until it’s been implemented. The risk is in people, (staff/partners/stakeholders/funders/customers) taking their time to become engaged in the strategic plan. It’s often difficult to get them to stop doing what is supposed to change. It’s a slow process.

You can take the horse to water, but can’t make the horse drink it.

What’s the option? How does a Solution Focused co-created planning process speed up the process of planning change, especially in looking at long-term outcomes?

It asks three simple questions you’ve heard before on these pages: What is working that we don’t need to change? What do we do more of/ instead of the problem? What do we need to do to see immediate progress?

The approach is used to engage many stakeholder perspectives in assessing

What’s working (that we don’t want to change)? There’s always more than we realize. Benefit: Moves people from hopeless to hopeful

What needs to be different/better? We clarify the problem, but do not make it central to the solution Benefit: It’s easier to see what we will stop doing.

What will it look like when the problem is no longer present? When asked this way, people discover what they have in common. Benefit: build a plan that leverages input and insight of all parties.

What would we see ourselves doing to initiate the change? Benefit: The change can begin at the start of the planning.

Engage the horse in getting it to the water it will drink.


Yes, but what if the people engaged are wrong about what needs to be done? They may be wrong, but no more so than the planning experts. If they own it, they will make it work flaws and all. If they don’t own it, they will take more time to engage.

Yes, but what if the staff (and others) are resistant to any change? Start by asking them (and their customers) what’s working and what needs to be better. Watch the change start happening. It may have to slow down a bit if they are deeply entrenched.

Key ingredient: early cross-stakeholder alignment (everyone is a stakeholder) and the above solution focused better questions. When everyone is aligned around the new desired outcomes, the plan falls in place more naturally.

It is a co-creation planning process. 

More on the better questions that Solution Focus brings to co-creation

Fry The Monkeys is now the official book of

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