How strategic planning and boot camps are similar

I have worked with many organisations over the past 15 years to help them build robust and resilient strategies, often in the face of rapidly changing and complex futures. For example, I have found the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to be a complex government initiative with a high degree of uncertainty, making it challenging for not for profit organisations to prepare accordingly.

To start, I whole heartedly support the notion of enhancing the levels of service to people living with a disability. Having worked as a regulator I deeply appreciate and value transparency, accountability, certainty and competition amongst service providers.

The challenge with NDIS is balancing the need for rigour and transparency whilst still maintaining and celebrating the ‘heart’ in the NFP sector. The two need not be mutually exclusive but rather should work to complement each other.

Creating a resilient strategy will be critical for all disability service providers looking to remain sustainable in the new world.

However, a two day strategic planning workshop will not achieve this. Resilience and sustainability are not tasks that can be completed in a workshop but are rather built through ongoing focus and commitment.

I recently talked with a colleague about a highly successful mid-tier mining company that quadrupled its output over the past 3 years. A key reason for their success was that they have been focussed on strategy for that entire time and view it as an ongoing process, engaging the support of an independent strategic advisor to maintain focus and momentum. This is a great example of embracing strategy as a part of business rather than a one off event that creates a glossy one-pager at the end (and then is often filed away).

The value of strategic planning is often the conversations triggered and independently facilitated in a way to drive robust discussion before achieving alignment. These conversations aren’t just ‘what is our mission statement’ but include ‘are the recipients of our services satisfied and appropriately supported’ and ‘is the value we are adding to the sector growing or diminishing’ and need to be held throughout the year. Often, scheduling and holding these challenging conversations gets overlooked because of fire fighting, cost cutting or other immediate pressures.

With such rapidly changing factors impacting us constantly, creating a strategic plan in a 1 or 2 day workshop and expecting it to continue to be relevant and effective for years to come is not exactly what I would consider to be good business practice for any business, not just those in the disability services sector.

After all, it isn’t like anyone could expect to do a 2 day boot camp and then be fit and healthy for the remainder of the year.

A boot camp, like a strategic planning retreat, is a catalyst that triggers great momentum to build on and requires ongoing focus and commitment.

So why treat a strategic planning process any differently when it directly relates to the fitness and health of your organisation and needs the same level of ongoing focus and commitment?

Annette Perrin is a Director of Creational Consulting. She focuses on supporting people at all levels in an organisation, from boards to operational staff, through strategic planning processes. She brings an independent, informed and creative perspective to support the achievement of strategic goals in an engaging and focused manner.

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