Getting Smart about Planning


by Dr. Ginny Trierweiler, the Mission-Based Leader’s Coach

Planning processes are not one-size-fits-all. Maybe you are planning to complete a successful grant proposal over the next 5 weeks, or to hire a new Vice President for your Pediatrics Department, or to discover an opportunity to move your organization decisively forward so it can gain substantially greater support in the coming year.

Planning must fit the current circumstances and organizational needs. When your leadership team engages in an intelligent planning process, you can address exactly what your team needs to address. The process should be intelligent in at least 3 ways:

  1. Identify a specific purpose for planning at this time. What will be different when planning is done? Without such a purpose, you are likely to have a nice retreat day that doesn’t make a real difference for the organization.
  2. Allot adequate time for planning. A situation assessment is always an important part of a planning process. You need to know where to start and where to end up!   You may be able to complete your planning goals in an hour, or you may need a 6 month process with a formal assessment, an initial retreat, and a decision-making retreat. Determine what you intend to accomplish and get realistic about how much time it will take to think things through, gather information, and discuss details enough to make actionable decisions. Implementation won’t work if decisions are rushed and there is a lack of reality basis or buy-in to the decisions.
  3. Engage a skilled facilitator to guide the planning process. It may not be necessary to do this for every planning process; however, it can be helpful for most if not all. A facilitator who functions outside your organization’s power dynamics can more effectively lead an objective, participatory process.
    1. Select a facilitator who thinks and communicates clearly so they can guide your planning process toward a well-considered, coherent and implementable plan.
    2. Select a facilitator with strong interview and assessment skills, so they can ascertain quite effectively the optimal focus and process to achieve the planning goals.
    3. Select a facilitator with very leadership and meeting facilitation skills. It is important that the facilitator conveys respect and high regard for everyone involved and for the mission of the organization. For real change to occur, the facilitator must build trust with everyone involved and have their permission to challenge assumptions and interrupt processes that seem to interfere with achieving the planning goals.
    4. Consider selecting a facilitator with intimate knowledge of organizations like yours; this facilitates quicker trust and progress through the process.

Strategic planning processes can be a waste of time, especially if you don’t give them enough time, if you skip key parts of the process, or you fail to obtain a facilitator with the leadership skills to guide your leadership team through the tough spots, where there is often a wealth of opportunity. If you are going to devote substantial organizational resources to planning, use an intelligent planning process!

What would you add to this description of ways to have a planning process that makes a real positive difference?


Get in touch to talk about how a facilitated planning process can help you!

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