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Strategic Planning Blahs

Dear Dave
Each fall for the past four years we have gathered our principals and department heads for an extended weekend strategic planning session. While the retreats have generally been a worthwhile process overall, and a number of good initiatives have been identified and implemented over the years, we find ourselves covering many of the same issues and topics each year. Quite frankly, the annual retreat process is becoming boring with several of the participants clearly just going through the motions at last year’s session. Suggestions?

Dear LD
Strategic planning is a top-down oriented process. To shake thinks up this year, try turning things around and orient your fall retreat as a bottom-up event.

In the period leading up to your retreat, task each department head and principal to independently develop a set of specific action plans and goals for their particular area of responsibility that are complementary to each of the elements in the overall firm strategic plan currently in existence. At the retreat, have each participant present their individual plan to the group. Have the group discuss each plan and either accept or reject major components. Work out any conflicts or duplication and blend the individual plans into a final set of initiatives to be pursued.

Another suggestion could be to “theme” your fall retreat for this year around one or two specific topics that might require some concentrated attention such as training, or marketing, or project management practices, etc. You’ll be keeping the fall retreat process alive for the future, and at the same time doing something productive for the near-term.

While it is not strategic planning in the classic sense, the change of pace for this year may just allow your staff to come back with a renewed sense of commitment and enthusiasm to a more traditional, top-down approach next year.

Wahby and Associates