by Donna Rutherford
On January 11, Board members, the Organizational Excellence Committee and representatives from other GDTA committees gathered in Bantrel’s comfortable boardroom for some concentrated learning and at times challenging thinking about what makes for a living breathing strategic plan.
The retreat was facilitated by Ken Larson of Champion Performance Systems. Dave Hockey introduced Ken, describing how his current work coaching leaders, businesses and organizations grew out of inspirational coaching he received during his three years on the Canadian Men’s National Basketball Team. Ken has an MA in Performance Psychology and is a Certified Executive Coach. He is also an avid reader, and in Dave’s 20+ years of friendship with him, he’s shown that he really cares about the people he’s coaching.
The GDTA participants brought a great deal of expertise to the room as well. While we shared a bit of our backgrounds in a round of introductions, Ken tallied up our years of planning experience and arrived at a grand total of 356 years!
Ken’s strategic planning focus is on execution and for an action-oriented group like the GDTA, that seemed a good fit. He showed us examples of the one-page template he helps organizations condense their strategic plan into. The template is designed to show clear alignment between vision, mission, purpose, core values and goals over three-year, one-year, and quarterly periods. But we weren’t ready to launch into that yet. First, we had to think through the key components of a solid strategic plan.
We began with an analysis of the GDTA’s strengths and weaknesses, the trends influencing our work, and the opportunities and threats created by those trends. Refining this analysis was the first task of the day to go on the WWW, i.e., the Who What When board. This is a tool for naming, assigning responsibility, and deciding timelines for the next step when a group has discussed something long enough to become clear that they want to move forward with an idea.
We then revisited the values, vision and mission that the GDTA Board approved in January 2017. Ken recommended we add our purpose to these since a purpose statement answers the ‘why’ that underlies our vision (which says who we are and where we’re going) and mission (which says how we’re going to get there). After some discussion, we decided further review, and possibly some refinement of our values, vision and mission was in order. This became task number two on the WWW.
Next it was figuring out the measurement that would allow us to track progress on our goals. What type of things should we measure, what metric would be appropriate for each of those things, and was each metric we came up with a leading indicator or a lagging indicator? We learned our set of metrics needs to include both types of indicator. Leading indicators are the things we do (e.g., events) that are predictive of the things we want to achieve. Lagging indicators are the hoped-for results of the things we do (e.g., growth in membership).
Now we were ready to craft some goals. Ken patiently coached us through applying an Action-Focus-Results (AFR) approach to defining what two of our committees would accomplish in the next three years. The AFR is worked through in a specific order:
- FOCUS: Decide what the most important area is for the committee to focus on for the next three years.
- RESULT: Decide what result we want to achieve in that focus area over the next three years.
- ACTION: Identify the actions that will lead to the desired results.
Then we re-ordered those elements into a succinct affirmative sentence that starts with strongly-worded actions and ended with desired results. This was an exercise in logic and language that had many of us struggling at times, trying to encapsulate a large area of work into a small number of words and still convey a clear meaning. Ken assured us our effort would be well worthwhile – we would end with clear, actionable, measurable ‘three-year key thrusts’ that could be broken down into ‘2020 key initiatives’ and ‘quarterly big rocks.’ We agreed to apply this AFR approach to all of our committees and that added five more tasks to the WWW board.
It was a productive day! It was great to learn some new ways of thinking and receive some new tools for continuing to build organizational excellence in the GDTA. We will continue the work in a second retreat day this spring.