Category Archives: Planning

My Top Posts for July

Here are the five most popular posts from my blog for the month of July.

6 Common Errors in Strategic Planning  In this post I attempt to uncover regular mistakes I see leaders and teams make in the strategic planing process-and offer some tips to correct.

Delegation vs Empowerment  This remains my most popular post month in and month out.  This is a critical leadership issue for the effective function of organizations and for the multiplication of leaders.

The Leader and Planning  This post was the first of a five part series on planning.    Here, I revealed the two primary purposes of team planning, stewardship and celebration, to lay a foundation for the planing environment.

3 Types of Leadership Decisions  Decisions are at the heart of effective leadership.  In this post I discuss the merits of directive, consultive and delegative decisions.

The Nature of Leadership Decisions  This post originally preceded the 3 Types of Leadership Decisions post.  In this post I lay out three diagnostic questions I believe every leader should answer before making a critical decision.

There are the five most popular for July.  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and interact.  I hope you find these posts beneficial for the first time-or again.  Lead well!

6 Common Errors in Strategic Planning

This is the final post in a series on the leader and planning.  I originally studied these common errors and wrote about them several years ago.  But here is an abbreviated and updated version on this important topic.  You can find the complete article under my Print Resources tab.

Most strategic planning processes include at least six elements.  I will highlight each element as a header and the common mistake I see made when teams work on this particular element.

Vision-There is no common direction or passion among the team.  Vision, in my mind, comes from the intersection of four things—passions, dissatisfactions, a strong knowledge of your situation, and calling.  As I have mentioned before, I am not a fan of well honed team vision statement.  Most organizations already have a succinct mission statement.  Vision has to come from the heart.  Have different members of the team share their personal vision for the organization on a regular basis.  Let each person’s vision contribution seep into the team mentality and  become the corporate heart of the team.

Current Reality-The situational analysis lacks a brutal assessment of the facts.  The knowledge a team possesses is often way too vague to make good, strategic decisions. Instead a team will rely on a “sense” of what is true about the organization or the intended customer/audience.  Teams need quality statistical data and good soft people data to make sound decisions.  This is leading through information.  Do the hard work of gathering key facts before deciding on what is broken.

Critical Mass-There is low priority given to increasing organizational capacity.  Critical mass typically includes leaders, money, tools and good will.  This is your resource pool to accomplish your vision.  You have to take an honest look at what is and what you will need in these resource areas.  The continual growth of key resources has to be a central focus for any team.  You can’t out grow your resource base.

Critical Path Steps-There is a lack of specificity in defining CPS.  Critical Path Steps are the team recognized current problems or opportunities that, if solved, move the team significantly toward the vision.  These can’t be limitless.  They are usually few in number-but always high leverage and well defined.  If they are not well defined you will never know when they have really been solved.  Be as specific as you can.  State them as a solution.  Use action oriented verbs when you do so.

Resource Release-There is no true team execution to solve the identified problems.  I have stated before that a plan without execution is a total waste of time.  But this is where most teams fail.  To get to execution you have to include roles, goals, tools and time.  You have to clearly state who is the point person to see a strategy or tactic through.  You have to state the measurable goal of success.  You must allocate a certain amount of your resource pool towards this strategy and you must get the tactic into the calendar-either as an event or as a marked duration of time.  Without agreed upon, clear execution you will never see your vision realized.

Evaluation and Learning-Evaluation is only seasonal and therefore learning is lost in time.  The current business or ministry environment is one of constant change.  Teams have to be adaptable if they are to be effective.  That requires nimble, in time learning.  Evaluation and learning should be captured every time a strategy or tactic is completed.  This enables speedy changes if necessary.  Of course a leader could and should conduct periodic, seasonal evaluations with their teams.  But ongoing evaluation and learning is a must in todays world.

There is obviously much more that could be said.  But hopefully this gets you thinking.  What else have you found to aid you and your teams in the planning process?

The Leader & Planning: Pace and Environment

This is the 4th in a series on leadership and planning.  For many organizations it will soon be the season for team strategic planning.  You need a team that is highly engaged and ready to give their best thinking towards the future of the organization.  Today’s post speaks to the right pace of planning and the best environment.  Here are some practical suggestions on both.

The Right Pace Matters  Too many leaders wear out their teams with all day planning meetings.  It’s death by planning.

1. Spread the planning time out over multiple days.

2. Never have a planning meeting for more than four hours in any one day.

3.  Don’t stay on one topic for too long.  I would recommend not going more than 60 minutes on any particular issue.  If you are tackling a particularly big problem-return to it later when there might be some fresh ideas.

The Right Environment Matters  If you want people to be engaged and contribute well you need to place them in an environment that aids the creative process.

1. Provide a comfortable meeting room that is well lit and has enough room for people to move around (I actually prefer meeting in a home when possible).

2. Be sure to take a good break every 75 to 90 minutes during the planning time.

3. If you are going to require planning aids like a VPU, large whiteboard (with markers that actually work), giant 3M note pad, posit notes, etc. be sure they are sufficient in number and in working order before you begin.

4. Snacks.  You have to have some good snacks.

There is an art and a science to planning.  Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference.  Lead well!

The Leader & Planning: Self Preparation

This is the 3rd in a series on planning.  I purposefully chose to talk about the leader’s own self preparation in planning now.  In the first post I talked about the overall purposes of planning.  In the second I highlighted some principles on team preparation.  Both of these topics should drive some reflection for the leader on what he or she needs to do at a personal level to prepare for the team planning time.  Here are three key considerations for preparing yourself in leading a planning time.

1. Do you understand well the vision, mission and direction of the organization?  This probably sounds rather insulting.  But I often run across two problem issues in this regard.   Sometimes leaders do not fully understand what leaders above them are aiming for.  Yet, leading within a larger context requires that the leader knows the aim, goals, and expectations of the broader organization that will affect the local setting.  The other issue I see is that a leader often does not know well their own current context.  They assume by intuition what is true and what needs to happen.  But they can’t actually back those assumptions up with good metrics, surveyed data, or current trends.  They are relying too much on prior experience.  This can lead to a rather canned approach to planning that is void of any real innovation or creativity.  It can also lead to solving yesterday’s problems based on tired information.  Leaders have to be continual learners.  They must be in line with leaders above them and they must be current abut the setting of their own sphere of influence.  Knowing these things will help enflame vision, mission and direction for the leader.  Knowing these things will help insure that the leader is able to lead in line with the organization’s vision, mission and direction-and can articulate that well to a team.

2. Have you thoughtfully defined well what you hope to accomplish during the planing time?  I have seen many leaders go into planning times with the only defined goal being that of coming out with a plan.  But what kind of plan are you hoping to produce?  What will be the time line of this plan?  Who will the plan impact?  Are the right people involved in the planning process?  How will you prepare the team for what you hope to accomplish?  Do you need outside resources or expertise to aid the planning time?  Who will facilitate the planning time?  These kinds of questions must be thought through and answered ahead of time.  To do so will guide you in how you approach and execute the planning time.

3. Have you considered  the value of consulting others before you facilitate a team planning time?  Sometimes leaders rely too much on their own experience and talent.  As I mentioned earlier, leaders need to be continual learners.  Have you asked other respected leaders how they approach team planning?  Sometimes the value of just having a sounding board can really help pave the way for a solid planning time with your team.  Have you sought outside resources like books, podcasts, videos, etc. to help inform your planning time?  Have you considered asking a 3rd party to come in and facilitate your time?  This can be valuable, especially if this is an emergency plan or a season loaded with personal emotions.  To have someone else facilitate can keep the planning time more objective and profitable.  Is there a co-leader in your setting and have you worked with them to ensure a coordinated effort towards planing?

I usually suggest that a leader begin to think through the above issues at least a month before the actual team planning time.  To really prepare at a personal level takes some slow cooking.  You can’t get there in a few hours at Starbucks.  And if you are a spiritual leader or a Christian leader leading in any capacity, then begin your personal preparation with some extended time in prayer.  Being led by the One who controls it all is always a necessity.  Lead well!


The Leader & Planning: Preparing Your Team

Many leaders do not prepare their teams for an upcoming planning session, except to let them know where and when.  The first sound uttered by a team member when they get the planning meeting email is a groan.  But wise leaders will save themselves a lot of emotional energy and will get the best out of their team planning times if they will prepare those involved before the meeting actually begins.

Three Reasons to Prepare Your Team for Planning

1. You will increase their ownership in the outcome.  If you are leading something of significance then you absolutely need your team’s best creativity and energy.  This flows from being vested in the process.  Creating ownership begins before the actual planning time begins.  Preparing your team by soliciting some of their thoughts ahead of time will increase their ownership.

2. You will increase their contribution to the process.  A good plan is hard to come by.  It takes time and hard work with every thoughtful mind contributing.  Thoughtful contribution will flow from a prepared mind.  This will definitely help the thinking processors in the group-who can often remain silent during brainstorming times.  Thinking processors, when they have had the chance to preheat, will benefit and contribute better and verbal processors will not dominate the time.

3. You will increase their commitment towards personal and corporate execution.  Apart from good execution any plan is worthless.  Execution requires that every team member executes at a personal level so that the team as a whole can execute well on a corporate level.  The better prepared a team is for this important activity the more they will understand what is required of them and be motivated to follow through.

Three Ways to Prepare Your Team for Planning

1. Engage Them in the Vision  As the team leader you must know the overall direction of the effort.  You must be engaged at a heart level to lead well.  But there is no guarantee that your team will naturally do the same.  Have them ponder and write down some thoughts to a few questions.  Ask them how they might contribute to the overall vision uniquely out of their gifts and abilities.  Ask them what they think the future might look like if the team vision is accomplished and lived out fully.  Ask them to transform the team vision into a war setting and a favorite vacation setting-and then describe it to the rest of the team.  Don’t waste time working on a well crafted vision statement that no one actually owns.  Simply let the team’s vision grow at a heart level as each member hears the other’s vision uniquely expressed through their eyes.  Start the process before your actual planning time by having your team do these exercises (or others) before they walk in the room.

2. Indulge Them in the Current Reality  Ask them for their perspective on the current reality of the organizational situation-and to prepare a one paragraph report before the planning time.  Ask them to come into the time with some thoughts written down about what is fixed and what is broken.  Ask them to come in with ideas about current hopes and frustrations.  Ask them to review the organizational metrics and to prepare a brief analysis of where the organization is today.  Ask them to be prepared to share what they believe to be the current impact of the organization on it’s intended audience-for good or bad.

3.  Involve Them in Practical Solutions  The team needs to come up with the plan–together.  But that does not mean that you cannot have them think ahead about potential solutions.  Ask each team member to consider what they think is either the biggest problem or greatest opportunity the organization faces–and to be ready to share three recommendations towards a solution.  If team members are already engaged in potential solutions it will almost certainly guarantee a robust conversation when it comes time to corporately solve the problem.  And that is where some of the best creativity and ownership will arise.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Why should a leader prepare the team ahead of time for planning?  What are some best practices you have observed in doing so?

The Leader & Planning

In case you haven’t noticed, it is July.  The significance for many ministry settings which operate on an academic year is that it is time to begin thinking about a strategic plan.  This can be the case for any organization that operates on an academic calendar, or a fiscal one which begins in August or September.  I have helped a lot of teams in their planning process and I have taught on strategic planning on numerous occasions.  I regularly see two missteps when it comes to team planning.  Either the plans are not worth executing because they were poorly done or teams are worn out through the process-or both.  Over the next several posts I will offer some insights that might change your planning environment toward a more productive and enjoyable one.  Today, we will begin by talking about the two primary purposes of planning.  I am  drawing both of my principles from a spiritual perspective-but believe them to be true no matter the setting.

1. The 1st Purpose of Planning is Stewardship  This is the idea that all of the resources we have at our disposal are not our own.  Typically we do not wholly own these resources, they have simply been entrusted to us to employ.  The idea of stewardship also carries the notion that we will always have a limited supply of resources.  In other words, they are not inexhaustible and we rarely have all that we want.  I believe this to be true whether we are leading a for profit enterprise or a non-profit organization.  With these two things in mind it makes sense that we have to be incredibly wise about the right use of the resources entrusted to us.  Under the banner of “resources” I would primarily count people, money, and tools.  Because we believe our cause to be worthy and because our resources are always limited-we have to employ the people, money, and tools under our watch with great care and towards the highest leveraged activities and strategies possible.  This absolutely requires thoughtful planning.

2.  The 2nd Purpose of Planning is Celebration  You may think this a strange reason for good planning.  But I find that leaders and teams often spend days on crafting a robust strategic plan only to forget to celebrate key milestones along the way.  This can ultimately be very demotivating to a team giving it’s best effort to execute a plan.  This can also raise the belief that the constant, non stop focus on planning and execution is primarily for the sake of the leader.  To stop and celebrate not only allows a proper break in the daily harried activity but it also provides a great opportunity to acknowledge individual and team contributions.  This places the proper emphasis on team and not just on a leader. If you are a spiritual leader it also allows you the space to give God his deserved glory for showing up in ways that you had not anticipated and adding his blessing to your plans.  Celebration can take many forms.  I think it should be specific, acknowledging critical milestones and key contributions.  I also think it should be regular, taking place each time a new goal is reached.  To stop and celebrate says that the dog days of planning were worth it.  It also keeps your plan a living document that can change and adapt over time (more on this later).

This post says nothing about how to plan-we will get there.  But I hope it speaks clearly as to why we must plan.  We must see all resources as valuable and every effort as note worthy.  To do so elevates the function of planning.  Lead and plan well!

Here are some key verses from the Bible on planning:  Exodus 26:30; 1 Chronicles 28:12; Job 42:2; Psalm 20:4; Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 14:22; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 20:18; Proverbs 21:5; Isaiah 14:24; Ephesians 1:11