Process to Develop “Strategic” Plans

A plan lists actions that can be taken. A “strategic” plan is one that identifies the actions that will lead to the most progress being made towards the vision.

Below is a simple process for prioritizing possible actions in a plan, so that the actions that are most likely to result in the most progress are given the highest priority.

  1. Agree what your key goal is for the organization from your strategic direction on the previous sheet. You will use this in Step 5 below.
  2. Identify your most limited resource. It is the thing that most constrains how much you can do. This is usually either money or availability of people or quantity of key materials available. You will use this in Step 4 below.
  3. List the possible actions that have been identified. These possible actions will have come from all constituents and staff.
  4. Estimate the amount of your most limited resource that each possible action would use. This might be, for example, the cost of the action, or the number of people that the action would occupy.
  5. For each possible action, estimate the size of the contribution made towards the key goal. This might be, for example, the expected number of multiplying disciples to result from the action, or the number of movements started, or the expected increase in staff support to be raised.
  6. For each possible action, calculate the contribution towards the goal per unit key resource used. This is calculated by dividing the result of Step 4 by the result of Step 5.
  7. Determine the priority (1, 2, 3, 4 etc.) for each possible action, with the highest priority actions being those actions with the lowest amount of key resources used per unit contribution towards the goal. In other words, the lower the number determined in Step 6 the higher the priority.
  8. Flesh out the details of the highest priority steps for action.

Are You Doing Planning or Strategic Planning?

Is your plan a strategic plan or just a plan?

Well, it depends upon your definition of “strategy”. This usually comes back to some sort of high level steps / plan / direction / actions. However, one person’s high level, is another person’s detail, depending upon where you sit in the hierarchy. So when you get rid of hierarchy, “strategy” comes sown to being the best things to do rather than just some good things to do.

Everyone can have a strategy – the route that they have determined is the best route to take to make the most progress towards a goal.

To determine the best thing to do you need to answer the hardest question, i.e. determine what steps you need to take to make the most progress towards your vision, given the resources available to you, not just some good progress towards your vision.

To determine the best things to do (i.e. determine what your strategy should be) you need to look at all of the alternatives and select the best. This boils down to some portfolio management, i.e. looking at all of the things (projects and ongoing work packages) that you are doing / can do, and focus on the ones that give the best results.

Here, here and here are some papers that describe Portfolio Management, and how to compare work packages to add the most value / make the most progress towards the vision.

You can find a short presentation that describes a process to select the optimum work to do to make the most progress towards your vision here.

So, does your team have plans, or does your team have a strategic plan?


Questions For Reviewing Plans

What should you look for when reviewing a plan for a national team in our organization? Here are the questions that I kept finding myself asking during reviews of our national plans recently. I hope that you find them useful. The questions should be asked pretty well in this order.

  • What are their objectives / desired outcomes?
  • Do the objectives line up with the Vision, Mission and / or strategic measurements of the global organization?
  • Are the objectives described as quantitative outcomes?
  • Does the SWOT analysis relate to the objectives?
  • Do the main steps / actions described in the plan relate to the objectives?
  • Do the main steps / actions described in the plan address the weaknesses / threats in the SWOT?
  • How many staff / employees are there in the country?
  • Are the objectives reasonable given the number of staff?
  • Are the actions reasonable given the number of staff?
  • Are there too few / too many different Mission Critical Components and or ministries for the number of staff in the country?
  • Are the main resources needed to implement the actions described in the plan?
  • Does it look practical to generate / obtain those resources given the history of the country?
  • Does the plan show the strategic steps that will make the most progress towards the vision?
  • What could go wrong to stop the desired actions from happening?
  • What might need to be done to mitigate these risks?
  • Is the national team on a clear path towards the Vision for their country in order to meet our Calling?

Fixing Teams That Don’t Work

Ever seen a plan that did not get executed because the team of implementors is dysfunctional? Well, it happens.

There are various tools that can be used to assess teams of people or individuals. These tools can help identify team dynamics that are holding back implementation of a strategy. Here is a summary of some tools that might help you. Credit for this should go to my expert colleagues, Greg and Anne.


This assesses people’s areas of interest and their organizational focus. For each member of a team, it can identify what they like to contribute to the team’s work, and what they need from the rest of the team to work most effectively. Birkman can be used to identify imbalances in the makeup of a team, and to identify causes of possible breakdowns in team working. It looks at a person’s preferences in the subjects of esteem, acceptance, structure, authority, advantage, activity, challenge, empathy, change, freedom and thought.

BPMT (Building Powerful Ministry Teams)

This is a team assessment tool based upon “The Performance Factor: Unlocking the Secrets of Teamwork“. This tool helps a team self assess six different aspects of team working (common purpose, clear roles, accepted leadership, effective processes, solid relationships and excellent communication). Teams can then see which aspects of team working are failing, and take steps to address them.


Stengthsfinder identifies the top 5 strengths that a person has out of a list of 34 possible strengths. This helps people determine what aspects of work they like the most. Teams can then use this information to help allocate tasks to play to the strengths and preferred working styles of their members. Hopefully this will save you allocating a detailed analysis task to someone who’s strength is blue sky thinking! One advantage of this tool is that it is positive – it focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses, so it create little negative conflict.

7Fs Personal Life Assessment

A simple self test that anyone can take to see if they have an appropriate life balance. This might help you identify people who are burned out because their overall life is out of whack. The assessee grades the strength of faith, fellowship, family, friendship, financial, fitness and fun in their life.

Job Description

Does everyone working on your project have a job description, and are they working according to it? This maybe a little obvious, but it maybe worth reviewing!! If there are no job descriptions, maybe that is a source of team conflict.

360 Review

This is a simple assessment that allows team members to see how they really perform in the eyes of their peers, supervisor and subordinates. This tests the team’s strengths and weaknesses in a more objective manner than self evaluation. Only use it with relatively self-confident people or people who really are not self-aware of major issues.


This is an assessment of the ability to succeed for individuals in a team. The complete explanation of the psychology behind the test is in the book The EQ Edge. EQ-i starts with creating self understanding, and then self regard, with the hope that it can help with other’s perceptions of team members. It grades self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal communication, decision making and stress management. This assessment tool can identify character and communication issues in team members that have been hindering a team’s ability to execute a strategy. If someone has some real issues, then assess them annually to cover those issues. If they do not have stand-out issues, then there is no need to assess them every year.

EQ-i 360

This is good for team members who have real blind spots that are bringing down a team’s ability to execute their plan. This uses the same assessment questions as EQ-i (above), but a person’s manager, peers, direct reports, family / friends and other people answer the questions as well as the person being assessed. You would certainly want to use it when you see EQ-i results that really don’t match up with your experience. When looking for work performance in a team, count the manager’s view with greater importance than the results of the other reviewers. When looking for character issues, count a team leader’s direct reports with greater importance than that of other reviewers. This tool could also be used with people who are doing well, but want to do better still.

Lean Management and Strategic Leadership

Lean management and strategic leadership are irrevocably interrelated.

McKinsey defines Lean Management as having four disciplines:

  • delivering value efficiently to the customer
  • enabling people to lead and contribute to their fullest potential
  • discovering better ways of working
  • connecting strategy, goals, and meaningful purpose

We define Strategic Leadership as:

  • Strategic leadership engages people in creative thinking, planning and execution to most effectively accomplish the vision.

In these two definitions

  • “delivering value efficiently” relates to “most effective accomplishment…”
  • “enabling people to lead and contribute” relates to “engaging people”
  • “discovering better ways” relates to “creative thinking, planning and execution”
  • “connecting strategy, goals and meaningful purpose” relates to “execution to … accomplish the vision”

I know that we did not have this correlation in mind when we defined strategic leadership, but the parallels impress me. This tells me that if we want strategic leadership, we can learn a lot from those who area teaching and leading lean management.

As we start our planning cycle for the year, a couple of things that really stand out to me from lean management are:

  • planning is devolved to the front line, not Area, National and Team leaders
  • better ways of doing things are discussed, rather than extending our work from last year’s practices

I recommend the following further reading on lean management:

McKinsey’s Insight introduction article to lean management

McKinsey’s detailed paper on lean management

The Logical Framework

Have you ever executed a plan, only to find that you did not accomplish your original goal?

The Logical Framework is a tool that will help ensure that the plan you execute causes you to deliver the outcomes needed to achieve the purpose you want that means you accomplish the goal you desire. The idea is that you link the things you do directly to the desired goal through a logical thought process.

In the Logical Framework you define success measures, verification method and assumptions behind each of the planned actions (the model calls these “Inputs“), “Outcomes” of executing the plan, the “Purpose” behind wanting those outcomes, and the end “Goal” you want to achieve.

The core of the Logical Framework is the “temporal logic model” that runs through the matrix. This takes the form of a series of connected propositions:

  • If these Inputs are implemented, and these Assumptions hold, then these Outcomes will be delivered.
  • If these Outcomes are delivered, and these Assumptions hold, then this Purpose will be achieved.
  • If this Purpose is achieved, and these Assumptions hold, then this Goal will be achieved.

This tool was developed by the US Aid government department to ensure that the ultimate outcomes of delivering humanitarian aid to a country were achieved as a result of the aid program. Basically, this is a reinforced outcome based approach to project planning.

For all of the detail, have a look at the following:

The Logical Framework, A Manager’s Guide

Creating Change to Execute a Strategy

McKinsey posted a very interesting article here on why change initiatives fail. I think that it hints at a core issue that we have.

Our strategies often require the staff who we lead to change. For two years the biggest complaint that we had from the field was that the corporate staff were generating too much change. Our response (of which I have been a champion) is for the corporate staff to create fewer initiatives, and to space those that we do generate. This article argues that this is the wrong approach, and that our emphasis should not be on limiting the change that we allow to be created, but to create an organizational culture that has change management as a core process, so that changes that are necessary (preferably organically generated from the local level) can be implemented as a matter of course.

Food for though. Comments on this article anyone?

Leading Strategically With Information

It is not possible to lead strategically by our definition without leading with information. That may mean that we have to collect, process and analyze a lot of data as part of our leadership. However, it may also mean that our role as leadership coaches is to ask questions that cause the team members to do the collecting, processing and analysis. In this case, our role is to ensure that the team has done this work, not necessarily to deal with the numbers ourselves.

Possible questions that we can ask to ensure that our teams are using information to lead strategically:

  • What is your goal in numerical terms? Where are you now in those terms?
  • What rate of progress are you making to date towards your goal?
  • Are you on track to meet your goal given where you are now, and the rate of progress that you are making to date?
  • What are the different alternative routes to reach your goal, and how does the rate of progress towards the goal differ for each of those alternatives?
  • Show me that you are making the most effective progress towards your goal.

Good Summary Presentation on Strategic Planning and Management

Please see here a presentation made through the Association for Strategic Planning  yesterday.

This is the best summary presentation on strategic planning management tools and techniques that I have seen to date. It covers all of the key tools and theories from the last 30 years. Please note that this is strategic planning and management, not strategic leadership. Despite this difference, I think that this is a really useful summary of key tools for those practicing strategic leadership.

The good news is that nearly all of the key things mentioned in this presentation are available in our organization. Note my choice of words there 🙂

This presentation is reproduced here with kind permission from the presenter, Randy Rollinson, who you can contact at:

Randall Rollinson, President, LBL Strategies, Ltd.,