ToP Facilitated Strategic Planning Process
Step by Step Work Plan
Imagine how it would feel to be able to create a vision of the future with your people. An inspiring vision that a team has co-created is the glue that holds them together. Participation in creating an inspiring vision aligns team members around shared values and a common cause to make a difference. Creating common cause gives people the courage to endure the pain of change. This unleashes passion and positivity allowing people to see past the negative obstacles to the bigger picture. Inspiration energizes people to work collaboratively and creates the motivation and a positive attitude that can have a healthy rippling effect across the whole organization.
The diagram and descriptive text provides a road map for the Technology of Participation (ToP) strategic planning process.
ToP (Technology of Participation) Strategic Planning Process
The approach enables a group to think strategically. It is highly participatory and builds consensus. It assumes that everyone has a piece of the puzzle; every person involved can make a valuable contribution.
It does not start from scratch. The group or organization will likely have stated its mission, long term objectives and its values. The group will have history and experience to build upon.
It assumes that those people who have to implement the plan are participating in the planning. Top-down planning does not work very well, as has been shown time and time again, because it does not engage those who need to make the real commitment to implementation.
Creating an Inspiring, Practical Vision
We begin by looking at the Practical Vision – the desired future. The orientation is toward the positive – the situation we want to create. Developing a practical vision is a way to see both the forest and the trees – the big picture and the nitty gritty
The hopes and dreams that make up the practical vision are often hidden under daily workplace complaints and in the secret dreams that people dare not express. Beneath those woes is vision in disguise; just waiting to get into the open.
A good vision is practical, full of specific things you can see as well as taking intuitive leaps into the unknown. The facilitator encourages practical thinking and freedom of the imagination; so the group can express its real hopes and dreams. A great vision will paint a believable picture of the possible future and make the group’s heart soar.
The next step is to discover the Underlying Obstacles – the things getting in the way of realizing the vision – the block or logjam – the underlying contradictions. T.S. Eliot said, “Between the idea and the action falls the shadow.”
Obstacles are sociological realities like structures, policies and operating patterns that say “no” to the vision. An obstacle is not “a lack of” something. A ‘lack of money’ is not a contradiction, while ‘wasteful spending priorities’ might be.
Discerning the underlying obstacles shows the doorway to the future. Although an obstacle can be the source of great pain for many people, an obstacle is not negative. When people come to terms with the real barriers they face, they can use them to leverage an organization into the future and open the way to creative strategies.
The third task in ToP strategic planning is to create Strategic Directions to deal with the obstacles and move toward the vision. As soon as you become aware of an obstacle, you get a hint of what can be done about it.
Strategic directions become not things to wish or dream for, but things which must be done because of the situation. When you know that wasteful spending priorities prevent you from success, you immediately get some clues about what must be done.
Effective strategic thinking goes beyond the latest good idea and responds to the obstacles. Strategic directions represent judgments and decisions made by the group which will put it in an advantageous situation in the future. Strategies are never something that are performed but rather a crucial arena of action – a pathway towards a breakthrough.
The Action Plan is the final task in the TOP strategic planning process. The group forges clear, step-by-step plans for each strategic direction, creating a coordinated action plan for immediate implementation.
After deciding upon measurable accomplishments for the strategic directions, the group selects those actions that can break through the inertia that has kept them mired in the past. Each action is scheduled on a timeline, the people who will implement the action are named and the cost of each action is written down. The challenge is to design a plan that will really make something happen; a plan that will qualitatively transform the situation.
When people work with their colleagues at this level, the creativity and energy can be explosive. The commitment goes beyond mere buy-in. The group has invented a totally new plan and formed a sense of real commitment to success.
Technology of Participation Strategic Planning Process
Results of using a Participatory Workshop Process:
- Shared: a single, group product all stakeholders can commit to
- Practical: written in concrete, descriptive language of nouns and adjectives in the present tense
- Intentional: describing where the organization will be in 3-5 years
- Familiar: clearer and deeper but not different than what each individual had in mind before
- Inspiring: calling participants to stretch a bit and take responsibility for the future
Practical Vision: What will the organization look like in 3-5 years time?
- The idea is to create a concrete vision of the organization together with the key stakeholders whose support and commitment are critical to success.
- It will be based on images of the future, ideas that have been discussed for several years.
- The workshop method will bring to the surface many individual visions into one conscious picture.
- Every stakeholder has a piece of the puzzle. No one has the whole picture until the group creates it together.
- The whole picture is formed from the relationships among many separate brainstormed elements. The picture can only emerge when you see how the pieces fit together or relate to each other.
Underlying Contradiction or Obstacles:
- Critical analysis of what might prevent the organization from achieving the vision.
- Examples include constraints such as behaviors, values, systems or policies that are currently in place and will need to be addressed.
- Once the obstacles are understood, solutions or doorways to achieving the vision naturally emerge.
Strategies, approaches or key focus areas of activity are developed that will address the obstacles and enable the vision to come into being.
- The strategies will have a wide span of involvement to engage key stakeholders and serve as a communication vehicle for the vision to develop a deeper awareness for the need to change, something the stakeholders asking for.
- A short term plan is created will include outcomes and goals for each strategy.
- The implementation time frame is usually within the next 12 months, and will need to be revisited to reflect on what is working well and where improvements or more focus need to be made.
- A timeline with specific actions or initiatives for each strategy are created that will engage management, staff, and members to build awareness and commitment for change.
Preparing for the planning session: 2 days
Assess the current need for a strategic plan
- internal and external
- Clarify the strategic objectives
- group – identify key stakeholders
Establish the planning roles and guidelines
- steering committee
Design the planning process
- focus questions