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Strategic Planning (SP) is all about having an impact, and making that impact as big and as meaningful as possible. So it's one of the main tools we have in helping an organization not only be effective (achieving its goals, or doing the right things) but also to be efficient (making the best use of limited resources, or doing things right). 

The goal of the SP process is not to get the "right" words on a piece of paper, but to create a shared vision, shared priorities, and a shared sense of urgency among the people who will be implementing the plan. This can only happen if those leaders participate meaningfully in creating and shaping the plan.

Below is a diagram that illustrates this concept:

The large arrows represent the overall strategic direction that an organization needs to go in. The small arrows inside represent the actual direction (vision and ideas about what is important and how they should be spending their time) that individuals in the organization have. In diagram A, there is misalignment, whereas in organization B, there is greater alignment. So organization B and D are going to be more effective and efficient than organizations A or C, because less energy gets wasted and more energy goes into achieving the goals of the organization. In drawing C, the overall direction of the organization has changed, but people are behaving in the old "B" ways. C is similar to, but not as bad as A, but the point is that it's a never-ending process of keeping individuals in alignment with the total organization. And because people (leaders) are the ones who determine the strategic direction, there needs to be a continual dialogue going on comparing where the organization needs to go with where the people in the organization are going. 

Involving people in the SP process is an excellent way to bring an organization from A to B, and also from C to D. To use this as a management method requires several things, but chief among them are leadership, the ability to dialogue, and trust. Leadership to set the overall direction, and to gently insist that things need to change or improve. The ability to dialogue - i.e., both to disagree (and even to fight over competing interests) AND to come to a place of deep agreement. People need to fight passionately for what they believe are the important things, but they also need to accept the fact that resources are limited and the organization can't do everything. And they can't have those kinds of conversations and they can't come to the place where they will support what the group (and the leader) decide to do - unless they trust each other and their leader. 

Copyright 2002 Inflection Points

For a strategic planning "template" -- i.e., a guide to the SP process that a team of people can use to create a strategic plan, click here.
To read thoughts on how the challenges of organizing impact integrated development click here.