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It’s Always Time for Planning – Will Your’s Be Strategic?

No matter what your financial or calendar year looks like, there’s always time for planning!  Woo hoo! What are we going to do next year?

You certainly have some options – you could do it strategically or unstrategically.

What exactly is unstrategic planning? Here’s how you might go about doing that…

  1. No big picture thinking needed: Don’t bother to think about the bigger context of your programme, project or process. Imagine that you are operating in your own little bubble, safe and sound, and that you have complete control over everything.
  2. The future starts today: The past is messy! Thankfully, you don’t need to think about anything that came before. Try really hard not to be bogged down by learning from the past, what worked or what you might do differently in the future. Imagine your process is a white board and that everything starts from today!
  3. Do-it-Yourself: It is hard to coordinate everyone’s schedules, so just do the planning yourself, or with anyone available. No need to bring in the people that your plan might affect or consider what they would like or think about it. Just consider what you want to do. You can always check in with them later while the plan is being implemented. They will understand!
  4. Time is precious: Anyways, people are super busy, so make sure it is nice and short – something you can do in a couple of hours max. People can’t devote too much time to this as they need to go back to whatever they were doing that was not related to last year’s unstrategic plan.
  5. Capacities can expand: You don’t need to consider the capacities of the people that will implement the plan, or whether they have time to implement the new ideas. They are great people and they will find the time!
  6. Talking and planning: In your planning session, don’t bother to write things down, you’ll all remember what was discussed! And no need to have a time plan, or milestones (things will happen when they happen). If you do want to write a little report, sit on it for a few weeks, then people won’t remember what was discussed leaving you a little wiggle room for tweaks…no one is going to read it anyways!
  7. If we plan it, funds will come: You don’t need to gather information in advance about budget, or need to know how much is available. Actually you don’t even need to talk about budget. If you want something enough, funds will show up.
  8. Risks, shmisks: No need to talk about risks or Plan B, C or D. These plans are basically thought exercises anyways, right?

These are some of things that can make your planning unstrategic. Of course if you want your planning to be strategic, do the opposite!

  • Do think about the bigger system in which your project or programme is embedded.
  • Try to learn from what has happened before – what worked and what didn’t and use that to inform your next plan.
  • Make sure all the right people are in the room and make sure anyone not in the room has been consulted if you planning will implicate them.
  • Strategic planning takes time, you can’t rush it. A day or even two days might be the appropriate time to get through all the steps thoughtfully, comfortably, with creativity and enough discussion for agreement.
  • Consider the capacities of the team members implementing this, how does it fit into their current work, will it be a part of their work plans? Reflected in their performance assessments?
  • Make sure you document the process and make it available immediately (a google doc perhaps?)
  • Make sure to include time plans, realistic budgets and roles and responsibilities so when you are not in the room together everyone knows what to do.
  • Have a conversation about risks – what might be the risks to implementing the plan and how might you mitigate those?

What more would you add here?

Unstrategic planning is relatively easy. Thankfully this is an alternate universe to ours. We all understand how important it is to make sure our planning is strategic and that it sets us up on the best possible trajectory for the highly anticipated new year ahead.

So Happy Strategic Planning and hoping your year is full of exciting, well-planned initiatives and activities!!

2 replies
  1. Ewen Le Borgne
    Ewen Le Borgne says:

    Ha ha ha,

    I had a (kind of) laugh, as this is -alas- quite recognisable. Although I’m a big proponent of quick and dirty for many things (quick iterations, short feedback loops and all that), when it comes to strategic planning, it’s really counter-productive to try and run too quickly alone, as you pointed out. I wonder what your coping strategy for this is, what are the different shades of your involvement with such scenarios and clients, and when ‘too much’ is really too much and you refuse to help because it’s too little too late.

    On a similar note of that dance between organiser and thinking partner (in this case facilitator), I once blogged about the risks for an organiser of running an event too quickly without involving the facilitator: https://agilefacil.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/dont-run-without-your-facilitators/

    Keep up the great work!


  2. Gillian
    Gillian says:

    Thanks Ewen, for your comment and the link to your blog which I really appreciated – the metaphor of a dance is a good one as that’s what it often feels like. Also once you have a good dancing partner, you really enjoy picking up with them again in a way that is smooth and elegant. Of course, with new “dance” partners, it can take a while to get into the right rhythm and not step on anyone’s toes in the process, but with practice the final result on stage can be very exciting!

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