Someone downloaded a free Brainzooming strategy eBook, noting his biggest strategy challenge is "how to do a strategic planning process when you are new." That question relates to something we do all the time: walk into a new client in an unfamiliar industry to design and facilitate a strategic planning process.
While leading strategy development in a new company poses challenges (including needing to learn a tremendous amount as you go), it has a comparable number of advantages (Including not laboring under preconceived ideas about how the organization does things).
In that type of situation, we recommend using strong strategic thinking questions and frameworks to quickly understand the situation, the players, and the opportunities. This is vital (from our experience) for ensuring your newness yields more advantages than challenges.
Additionally, here are four areas we recommend exploring right away (and 12 resources to support your work):
Identify what has been done previously
Secure copies of previous plans and strategy documents, and don't settle for the first things people offer you. Keep digging via different angles and types of requests. What you see as strategic may not be what others think is strategic. Ask about what has and has not worked during previous strategic planning initiatives. You want to be sure to find out what things most often lead to successful implementation. Finally, as you compile strategy documents, review them thoroughly to glean all the value they provide.
Getting to What Is Strategic
- Strategic Thinking Questions to Identify What Matters for a Brand
- What Is Strategic and What Isn’t?
- Four Must-Know Ways to Read a Strategy Document
Determine the important players
Review the organization chart and identify the major players from a formal standpoint. That's your first look. Then start probing informally for who the important players will be in strategic planning. That's not to say the people on the org chart AREN'T important. There are like people outside the top-level organization charts with ideas, insights, pieces of the puzzle, and important answers for getting you up to speed very quickly.
Tracking Down the Expertise You Need
- All the Strategy Roles You Need
- You Find Experts Everywhere You Look
- 9 Strategic Thinking Questions for Innovative Ideas from Experts
What's it like?
Go hard and fast to understand the company, customers, industry, and competitors, along with all the other things important for the early internal and external fact base supporting the strategic planning process. These are the basics where you must quickly develop a working knowledge and a good command of the facts. As a new strategic planner, you can quickly gain advantage by bringing intriguing comparisons to the table. Finding analogous situations to help create new perspectives helps you stay ahead of the game in introducing new thinking. The more pertinent analogies you can employ, the more you showcase how fresh perspectives are bringing value to the strategic planning process.
Making Great Comparisons
- Finding Your Brand’s Strategic Analogs
- 12 Triggers for Finding Strategic Connections
- Can Analogies Change the World?
It would not be a surprise if many (most?) of the people you will reach out to for strategic planning participation will be focused on day-to-day business activities. While they may want to look toward the future, near-term responsibilities can routinely derail those aspirations. As the strategic planning person, you are in a prime position to focus on what is coming - whether expected or unexpected. Be on the lookout for individuals who spend considerable time thinking about trends, future developments, and their implications.
Looking Further Out from Here
- 6 Strategies – Innovative Business Ideas to Stay Ahead of Customer Needs
- 7 Ideas to Envision Your Future Organization
- Black Swan Events in Your Plan
That may not be everything, but it's a solid start to run a strategic planning process as if you have years of experience where you are! – Mike Brown