Strategic plan still sitting on the shelf?

Get to work on your strategic plan with strategic doing.

Three men at table with paperwork in front of them.

Michigan State University Extension hosted a Strategic Doing Workshop which taught the practice of collaborative leadership to move action items forward.

Like many organizational planning sessions, a group is hired to come in and help write a strategic plan, and after hours of work the question still remains, “how do we implement this?” Oftentimes, a plan either doesn’t have a sense of purpose or it wasn’t specific enough for anyone to carry out.

To add to this lack of purpose, the meetings set out to help strategize are often ineffective with 73 percent of employees doing other work in meetings and 75 percent of individuals having no formal training to run a meeting.

The problem is that our meetings and collaborative groups today are no longer hierarchical, chain-of-command type settings, and often there is nothing in place to make sure group members are accountable for work they do or don’t do. With strategic doing, instead of our old habits of command and control, we have to figure out how to align and activate a network of people and organizations.

At its root, strategic doing can propel a small, focused group to bring something to the table and each group member has a role in making a project happen. With ten simple rules, your meetings and plans can be transformed.

  1. Create and maintain a safe space for deep, focused conversations. Identify the core group of six action-oriented individuals and meet in a space that will foster discussion.
  2. Frame conversation around appreciative questions. Develop positive problem solving. Imagine if your community could be X? What would that look like?
  3. Uncover hidden assets among the group. Have everyone share what they bring to the table, strengths, connections and project ideas.
  4. Link and leverage your assets to create new opportunities. You may notice aligned interests or project ideas forming, or discover contacts that could help make projects possible. Combine the group assets and you can move a project forward easier.
  5. Rank all your opportunities to find your “big easy.” This is the idea which will impact the most people in your community and is relatively easy to implement. Rank the ease and impact of the projects on your list. First, each person evaluates the potential impact if it were completely successful with 5 being high and 1 being low. Next, each person evaluates how easy or difficult it would be with 5 being easy and 1 being difficult. Add everyone’s numbers for total impact and ease scores to find your “big easy.”
  6. Convert your “big easy” into an outcome with measurable characteristics. What would people see, how would they feel and how would their lives be different after implementing the “big easy”?
  7. Define at least one pathfinder project with guideposts. This is your pilot project to help you test some assumptions that could be completed within approximately three to six months. It could be phase one of your project to create an initial buzz.
  8. Draft an action plan with everyone taking a small step. What will each member in the group do in the next 30 days? Everyone must contribute at least an hour of their time to a part of the project and document their contribution to the group.
  9. Set a 30/30 meeting to review progress. What has been done in the last 30 days and what needs to happen in the next 30.
  10. Nudge, connect and promote relentlessly to build your new habits of collaboration. Keep each other accountable and get to work.

Interested in learning more about strategic doing? Visit their website.

MSU Extension’s partner, Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA), participated in the Strategic Doing Workshop, learning helpful ways to assign meeting tasks and utilize the strengths of a group.

MSU Extension has had a unique relationship with the regional economic development organization Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) for more than 20 years. Recognizing the strength of combining resources, this partnership focuses on economic development, entrepreneurship growth and community infrastructure throughout a four-county region in the northwest Lower Peninsula, specifically Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties. As a result, the NLEA utilizes resources offered through MSU Extension as it provides leadership to state-wide programs sponsored by MSU Extension.


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