After a few years, clients almost always ask, "How can we put life back into our strategic planning? We've achieved great success, but we'd like to have the same level of excitement we had in the first few years."
This question often comes up for reasons that are inherent in the process itself. First, strategic planning - as an ongoing process - tends to yield easy benefits in the first couple of years, as your team focuses attention on the low-hanging fruit. After a couple of cycles of this, the fruit that is left may seem to be a little harder to reach...and often, it is. Secondly, if your process is well-run, each cycle of planning will seem more like a part of your management routine and less like a special event. This is true of any process that you repeat routinely, but with strategic planning, the first couple of years seem strange and wonderful because good strategic planning is so far outside the norm for most managers. Finally, as your team gains experience with the process of identifying strategic objectives and effectively implementing them, they also learn how much work is involved...and there may be a natural reluctance to commit to the big, exciting projects that bring so much energy to the first few years of strategic planning.
In the next few posts, I'm going to take a look at some exercises I have used to give the ongoing planning process a little more "zing". In general, these exercises fall into 3 categories:
1. Making the strategic plan more personal - many plans lose their "zing" because they seem to be about someone else...so identifying how individuals affect - and are affected by - the strategy can help reverse this.
2. Giving the vision more substance - sometimes, the vision encompassed in your strategy is too abstract for the team to "get into it". In these cases, some work on what the reality of that vision will look like can be just the thing.
3. Drilling deeper into specific parts of the strategy - in many cases, there are things just below the surface that can dramatically transform your company. A little digging in some specific areas can turn up gold!