Volume 48, March 2005: The Strategic Plan

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2005 ISSN # 1545-8873

“The voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new vistas but in having new eyes.” — Anonymous

“Plan or be planned for.” — Ghetto graffiti

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find joy in overcoming obstacles.” — Helen Keller

“Plans are made to be broken.” — Folk Wisdom


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Cohering a workforce through visionary planning.
  • Articulating purpose and intention.
  • Being a proactive designer, creating your future, rather than reacting to circumstances.
  • Being inclusive by engaging all constituencies in planning together.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

For too long, the “strategic plan” has been the purview of the corporate planner who produces the tome that resides on the shelf. We live in an environment too unstable to establish long-term plans. Our viability, as people and as organizations, depends on how quickly we can learn, adapt and create. Soften, loosen up the process of strategy-making. Begin to think in terms of capacity to create structures that fit the moment – spontaneously emerging, renewing organizations (a la Margaret Wheatley). Organizations can exist in sucha fluid fashion if they have access to new information,can constantly process data and make adjustments,but not lose sight of their enduring sense of purpose, vision and values – as governing ideas. Dream up a future with your constituents and live it now. As designer, you are the keeper of the future visioning and the learning processes.

Frequently Asked Questions

“I don’t understand what’s wrong with a five-year plan.”
Russell Ackoff says corporate planning is like a rain dance performed at the end of a dry season, to which the rain that follows is attributed. The rain-dancing has no effect on the weather even though it has therapeutic effects on the dancer. There are several fallacies to planning this way:
  • Too often the plans are focusing on the past or the negative, reacting to circumstances, trying to unmake the undesirable aspects of the organization.
  • The rate of change in our environment is rapid and accelerating. This makes accurate prediction impossible.
  • Forecasting the future from the present is trying to figure out something you can’t control, finding your way out of boxes.
  • Circumstances have changed by the time the document is typed.

Why not focus on something you can bring under your control? Start in the future you want and design it backwards to your present, Ackoff suggests.

“Who needs to be involved in the planning?”
The whole system. Open system planning is holistic, proactive, learning-based, devoted to total systems. Every person has a capacityfor sensing, reflection and creativity. Organizations are simply people who come together for a common purpose or aim. The major function of a plan is alignment – the personal with the organizational. How can you achieve that without involvement?
“Do you need to have a vision statement?”
First, a vision is not a “vision statement.” It is a mental image. The mind thinks in pictures. A good vision creates a picture of the best possible future, your hoped-for destination. Good visions capture hearts, inspire people, uplift and bind people in a sense of greater good. (Focusing on problems or limitations does not have this same uplifting effect.) Because visioning is a creative act, it should be separated from questions of possibility. A vision is values-in-action – you can see what an organization is about, expressed in future tense. It is purpose expanded into a foreseeable future. Try a new format – create a “shared vision,”rather than developing a vision and sharing it. Through ongoing interactions and conversations – employee “field meetings.” The very act of visualizing something together organizes the abilities to bring it about. Ever set goals, put them in a drawer, and realize a year later that they happened? It is the process, more than the document, that counts.


Newsletter and courses on strategic thinking from Haines Center: Free Strategic Management Insights Newsletter.

Key Associates offers large group strategic planning retreats: Future Search Conferences.

On-line business advice, including free articles: Online Business Advisor.

FAQs on strategic planning: Alliance for Nonprofit Management Resource Library.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Relevant Keyzines: Dialogue: Thinking Together, Building Community, Convening People, and Retreats.

Do-it-yourself virtual strategic planning process: MyStrategicPlan

Electronic brainstorming to reduce reams of flipcharts: Audience Response Solutions.

An international group of facilitators who focus exclusively on strategic planning: Meeting Facilitators International.


Books are linked to Amazon.com descriptions.


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