The Chemistry of Strategy tm Newsletter May 01, 2011

It isn't the plan, it's the process

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"I don't understand it, John." Wayne and I were sharing a beer after facilitating his company's fifth annual strategic planning meeting. "The plan the team came up with is essentially the same as what I could have written myself," said the founder and CEO. "But last year, when I decided to save time and money and just write the plan by myself, I wasn't able to generate the passion, commitment, and ownership you do in the two-day meeting. Your process seems like magic. What am I missing?"  

I answered Wayne's question with a question. "Have you ever read a play and then attended an excellent performance of that play? Have you ever read the sheet music and then attended an excellent performance of the piece? Which form best ignited your passion?"

Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible" is not meant to be read. It is meant to be experienced. Mozart's piano sonatas are not meant to be read as sheet music, they are meant to be experienced. While the notes written on the paper don't vary, every performance is different -- the venue, interaction with the audience, the effect of weather and humidity on the instruments, and the state of mind of the performers, to mention but a few variables.

A strategic plan is not meant to be read. It is meant to be implemented. Let me say that again. A strategic plan is meant to be implemented. That implementation starts with the engagement of the hearts and souls of the senior team in a well-organized and facilitated planning meeting.

  • Soliciting independent thoughts about the organization's major issues beforehand gets individuals thinking about the future.

  • The interactions between team members as they pool their collective insights to create a short understood, prioritized, and actionable list of the current issues builds trust and understanding.

  • The building of a shared visualization of the future they are all striving to reach creates the framework that informs their daily focus and prioritization.

  • The identification of this year's focus on status quo changes accelerates motion toward the shared visualization of the future.

I reminded Wayne of the universal, positive feedback every member of his team gave at the end of the intense two-day meeting. Every team member left energized to create the future they all wanted. And I, as their facilitator, experienced a high greater than any I've experienced at the best Broadway show or Lincoln Center performance I ever attended. It makes me tingle to just think about it.

Don't get me wrong. There is a great value in having a written plan, especially one that is available shortly after the planning meeting. However, the written plan is not a replacement for the planning experience itself. The written plan serves as a tool to remind people of the discussions and decisions made in the planning meeting. To be effective, the plan needs to be one part of an ongoing strategic planning process that empowers change. Otherwise, the strategic plan will join the thousands of other strategic plans sitting on shelves collecting dust.   

Create a strategic plan with your executive team

"Management is doing things right,
leadership is doing the right things."
-Peter Drucker

How long have you been saying that you are going to develop your strategic plan, but you haven't yet done so? Why? Perhaps it remains on your to-do list because it feels like a huge, laborious process and you haven't the time to spare to do it. Peak performing companies have a clearly defined strategic plan…and it doesn't have to take long to create an effective one.

Your executive team costs you over a million dollars a year. Are you fully utilizing them? It's a waste of time and money to create a plan that they don't own and implement.

John W. Myrna

is co-founder of
Myrna Associates Inc

My next Webinars

John Recommends

The Social Animal
by David Brooks

In an engaging manner, Brooks shares the latest science in understanding the human mind.

I found dozens of insights that enhanced and informed my understanding of behaviors I've experienced over my career.

Here is one of many insights. "Trust is habitual reciprocity that becomes coated by emotion. It grows when two people begin volleys of communication and cooperation and slowly learn they can rely upon each other."

Wow! What an insight on why team-driven strategic planning builds trust between team members.



Speaking Gigs

John loves to share his insights. Email him if you'd like to have him speak at your next meeting.

True or False?


"We have a plan - The CEO wrote it himself."   Answer


"George Fowler, and the Myrna Strategic Planning Process, was the piece of the business that had eluded Exacto in the last several years. Our team is a fantastic one, from a creative level, but we lack the discipline piece for accountable follow through. George has helped us, in two short days, to mature professionally, which will begin to guide us to solid growth. Thank you!"
Diana L. Braun, President, Exacto


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