Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Strategic Planning – when should the team be expanded?

The question of the size and composition of your strategic planning team should constantly annoy you. It should be annoying because there are two really important, but competing factors that should drive your choices. First, your planning will be more focused and effective with a smaller group. Second, your planning will have far greater impact if a larger number of people in your company feel they own the plan.

In recent years, we have tried many different compromises driven by these two factors. We’ve done planning with teams of 20, we’ve worked with teams of 3. Some of the innovations that have come out of this are well worth trying in any company. Still, at the end of the day, some clients want to have a very large number of people participating in their strategic planning meetings. Here are a couple of approachs that have worked for different companies:

  1. Have larger teams work on the homework from sections 1 and 4, and bring them in for the first day of meeting 2 to present their information.
  1. Invite all members of action plan teams into meeting 3 to review their action plans and participate in the scheduling process
  1. Have an informational meeting with a larger group at the end of the strategic planning process
  1. Conduct a strategic issues discussion (page 5.2) with larger groups and collate the results with the top management team.

Of these, I’m very partial to (1) and (2). Approach (1) drives ownership of the information.- and the strategy – down a level in your organization. Approach (2) drives ownership of executive to the appropriate level, where people who will do the work are also responsible for management of the implementation.

In any event, I would be wary of doing any of these approaches the first time out. Your management team will be under enough stress engaging in a new (or different) process without the added problem of performing for an expanded audience. Indeed, when there are specific remedial issues to address, you probably want to keep the strategic planning team as small as possible.

Have you involved a larger group in your company’s strategic planning? I’d love to hear about other approaches that have worked well.

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