Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Analysis of a failed strategic planning meeting

My personal experience with a strategic planning session is was fairly in line with a failed scenario described in "Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy." The team came together to discuss exciting new "out of the box" ways of doing business, spent thousands of dollars on a long weekend retreat at a ski resort hotel, and in the end pretty much nothing work-related came of it (except now we had seen each other intoxicated). The brainstorming session at this retreat was more like the described "unrealistically creative;" it discussed opening a branch office on an island and purchasing unnecessary and luxurious technology. In the end, it went off track and did not accomplish what it could have. I know that many of the employees in the room had a lot of ideas, but it wasn't shepherded in a way that facilitated thoughtful conversation.

Although the session was initiated with real data demonstrating areas that required improvement, it wasn't carried out in a scientific way. It was only mentioned so that we could "think about" these areas for improvement, I suppose hoping that they would someone magically fix themselves at some point in the future based on this brainstorming session. This strategic planning session had a beginning, but no middle or end. This leads directly to the "Can You Say what your Strategy is?" article. I have never heard of such a concept, but it fills such an interesting void. Giving all employees a strategic, competitive motto to keep in mind will absolutely help them in their strategic decision-making process. This is something that the nonprofit field already takes into account, but it could be taken even a step further by adopting further, internal mottos such as a strategic statement.

The real issues at hand were never truly addressed because a formal structure was not put in place for addressing them. In the end, managers may have thought that their staff would be impressed by the nice hotel accommodations, gift certificates for the spa and free meals, but on Sunday in the lobby while waiting for the valet, the staff were actually complaining about the lack of progress made in the strategic planning meeting. It was recognized now that nothing would change for yet another year. I think what I have taken away from this situation now is that good intentions are important, but "scientifically" and thoughtfully planning the session and the "strategy statement" can take your intentions from intent-ful to successful.

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