There’s nothing like the spacious renewal of a brand new year to inspire our optimism. It’s like a giant, cosmic reset button, specially designed to help us renew our perspective, refresh our capacity, and reshape our approach. Are you ready to make the best of 2018?
As we navigate the fourth calendar quarter of 2017, we’re noticing a number of our clients are deep in consideration of their potential. Are they doing all they can for their customers? Are they distinguishing themselves effectively from a crowded marketplace? Are they aligning their sense of purpose with their work, and making a real impact?
Are you looking for new opportunities? Building on success? Fighting for your life?
For some, this season is about honing and refining—building on their current successes to perform even better. For others, it’s about seizing new approaches and new ways of working together, and stepping into new opportunities. For still others, this is it; their last chance. The window of their opportunity is closing, and they need to be sure their next steps are precisely the right ones.
Naturally, each of these points of view influences the tone of their planning—and the temperament of our approach. Some need energetic encouragement; others need a calm, clear focus. We design our style distinctly for each client, thinking carefully about how the people in our client organizations need us to be…. One, for example, is doing really well, so we’re happy to play along when their CEO suggests a practical joke on his leadership team. For another, previous planning approaches have gone awry, leaving everyone a little tired of all the introspection. For them, our tone will be lean and efficient. By flexing our style, we adapt to meet the mood (and the capacity) of each client’s team.
One thing that doesn’t change, regardless of a client’s situation, is our framework.
Honed over dozens of strategic planning engagements, our Turning Point™ planning methodology is well-proven and reliable. Whether you find yourself with the space to explore possibilities, or up against a wall of existential worry, here are five features of our approach that you can apply as you plan ahead to 2018….
Include diverse perspectives. You can never guess where the next great idea will emerge. So include as broad a diversity of perspectives as possible. Talk to your team. Interview your customers, your suppliers, even your peers. Or—sharp intake of breath!—your competitors! The more perspectives you can engage, the better you’ll understand the full picture of your current situation, and the better positioned you’ll be to develop a strong plan.
Maintain Appreciative Inquiry. Rather than ‘solving problems,’ plan by building on your strengths. By understanding the best of your today, you’ll be more effective as a group in your work to design a better, brighter future. This can be incredibly difficult for organizations that are in trouble, but finding the bright light of hope is precisely what they need to move forward. And for organizations that are thriving, an Appreciative Inquiry approach will help you to choose the best from among the myriad opportunities that are presenting themselves.
Look for consilience. Consilience is the agreement of two distinct academic disciplines—typically across science and the humanities. Granted, your planning process isn’t academic, but when your marketing team comes to a conclusion about, say, market size, and your finance group comes to the same conclusion, each drawing on wholly different professional perspectives, you should listen. They’re probably right, regardless of how counterintuitive their insights might be.
Don’t get lost in blue sky thinking. But do spend a bit of time there!
Think big. Act precisely. Every planning cycle should include some ‘blue sky’ thinking. Let your people dream! Zoom out. Go to ’30,000 feet.’ See the forest, not the trees. See the whole chess board…. You get the picture. Whatever your metaphor, it’s imperative you take some time to consider the breadth of your market and your potential, so that you can see all the opportunities—and the challenges. But it’s also tempting to get lost in that big, blue sky. So limit the time you’ll spend there. We like to spend half our group time ‘diverging,’ exploring possibilities and potential, and then the other half ‘converging,’ choosing between those possibilities to decide precisely where actions are likely to be most successful.
Anticipate change. ‘The best laid plans’ are bound to be out of date as soon as you write them down. We all know this is true, so why deny it?! However, the problem isn’t that planning doesn’t work; it’s that we don’t anticipate change or embed protocols to manage change in our plans. No strategic plan is complete without a design for periodic review. Just anticipate that change is inevitable, and decide how, as a group, you’re going to handle it.
One last thing…. Building on that last point, gone are the days of the detailed, step-by-step, multi-year action plan. The pace of demographic, technological, and business model change is simply too fast for any planner to prognosticate that far into the future. Let yourself off the hook, by reframing strategic planning. So ‘out with the old, and in with the new.’ Effective strategy today is a management discipline. It’s no longer a biannual intervention; it must be embedded in the day-to-day rhythm of organizational life.
Change is in the air. Breathe deep. Let’s make 2018 a year to remember.
Mike Rowlands is President & CEO at Junxion. Alongside the team at Junxion, he has guided strategy development with early stage ventures, decades old corporations, not-for-profits and charities, and government agencies. Reach out to learn more about our approach, or join him at an upcoming Agile Strategy workshop.