What’s Going On?

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November 2018

What’s Going On?

I recently had the professional and personal pleasure of working with a CEO and his Strategic Planning Team on a Strategic Development retreat. What started out as a “Strategic Planning” initiative back in June changed to “Strategic Alignment” as more information and discussion was captured during the pre-session phase. To the credit of the CEO and his Team, they recognized that enhanced alignment was as crucial as planning anew. Why seek to merely conjure up new strategic objectives when “alignment health” is just as much a priority?

The Team and the organization had months earlier reorganized and although the organization is performing well, the Team felt that time invested focusing on alignment as it relates to the direction and priorities of the organization was in order. There is a foundational truth related to this approach: As the alignment health of the Planning Team goes, so goes the health of the strategic plan… and its successful execution. Again, it should be noted that this Team had been operating effectively, they just wanted and expected more of each other. Bravo.

Strategic planning is all about choices and the aligned planning Team must be able to discuss and choose together for the good of the organization. Sometimes the choices may be difficult but it is in these difficult choices that the organization may be able to achieve the advantage it seeks. Strategic planning author and practitioner Richard Rumelt, in his book, Good Strategy Bad Strategy challenges planning teams to adopt a “radical inequality” (pre-calculus term) mentality in order to be able to make hard choices as to where organizational resources may need to be newly re-directed. The attention on some areas of the organization may need to change. The truth is, this is not easy. But if a Planning Team is in good health, is aligned and authentically willing to embrace radical inequality, the sky is not even the limit.

The Planning Team’s objective for the day was to arrive at one Strategic Area of Focus by day’s end while developing clearer understanding and commitment related to the Team’s (and hence the organization’s) alignment. I wish you could have been there. This articulate Team of talented individuals did incredible work to clear some of the fog that had subtly settled in during the prior busy months. Author Rumelt sums it up with simple eloquence when he writes, “A great deal of strategy work is trying to figure out what is going on”.

This Planning Team not only met their objective for the day but will likely experience future success as they know that days like this are but an “on-ramp”. They realize the value of and see the true advantage of continued commitment to strategic alignment.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Rumelt, Richard P. Good Strategy Bad Strategy. New York, New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2011.


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