The end of the year offers an opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. Over the past few years my focus has expanded from large organisations to startups, but the premise of strategic planning still holds true.

There are a few approaches to the process of strategic planning. My preference is an Appreciative Inquiry framework, but others can be effective with the right facilitation.  It is helpful to allow one to two days, go to a new physical environment to get out of familiar territory, and use an external facilitator so everyone can participate.

Whichever approach is used, it is helpful to get clear on definitions for personal, organisational, and team planning.

As I take time for some personal planning, I thought I would share some definitions I have settled on in the event that help others.

  • Mandate
    The reason you are in the room. Your mandate is often given to you by someone in authority. Examples can include “Provide X service is such and such a way”, or “Deliver X product support”. You typically do not influence your mandate. You may be able to negotiate, but at the end of the day you either accept it or walk away.
  • Vision
    The light on the hill. The vision is what attracts your gaze when you get hit by the inevitable waves of uncertainty and change. It is what rallies the team and draws the collective focus.
  • Strategy
    Strategy focuses attention. Out of the hundreds of ways to achieve the vision, strategy focuses on typically four to six focus areas. These areas focus attention of the team and contain the initiatives. Every activity should align with a strategic focus area. If it doesn’t, then the activity is not aligned or the strategy may need to be expanded.
  • Initiatives
    Whereas strategy simply focuses attention, you cannot execute without initiatives. Initiatives have an owner for accountability and dates for delivery milestones.
  • Purpose
    Purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning, often either a fire in your heart or a fire under your ass. This could be survival, money, changing the world, growing an empire, hurting or helping others, and more. A burning ambition can be more sustainable, but a burning platform can be more motivating in the short term. Purpose is individual and organisational. Alignment of purpose within a team is powerful, misalignment is painful. If an individual is changing the world in an organisation that operates to solely make money, there is misalignment.
  • Principles
    Principles are the basis by which decisions are made. Again, alignment is important. A principle of “Winning at all costs” may be at odds with “Integrity first”. A list of principles can be shared and tested against decisions. Decisions made against principles provide feedback and an opportunity for realignment.
  • Values
    Values are the expected outcomes from principled decision making. If I have a value of respect, then I would expect to have principles of Collaboration and Consideration of community impact in decision making.


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