Business planning session

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Business planning session

The ability to think and act strategically is critical for organizations. One method that organizations use to demonstrate strategic thinking and plan for the future is an annual business planning session, which can be an instrumental tool in directing an organization, communicating goals and providing a road map so that individuals know how their day-to-day activities affect the organization.

However, the success of this session depends, in part, on the process and methodology. Ideally, organizations will initiate the process of business planning throughout the organization. Planning that occurs at each organizational level should support overarching goals and strategies.

Plans should be dynamic, able to change as required by the business, and revisited regularly. Personal development plans and evaluations should align with business plans. The challenge is, even in these best-case scenarios, organizations may still fail. Many organizations follow the process of articulating a vision, creating a mission statement, utilizing a SWOT Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis, creating strategic imperatives and then developing tactics to determine the direction of the business and where they should be investing time and resources.

The outcome is a plan for the year that functions as a road map for the organization. However, one issue with a typical SWOT analysis is that the process encourages at least half of the planning time to be focused on the negatives and gaps within an organization, with the intent of fixing issues and problems—a business planning session and often exhausting experience that leaves employees feeling defeated.

Is there a better way to conduct this process? Is there a way to make business planning a more positive, engaging and effective experience? Appreciative Inquiry AI methodologies have been applied to business planning session with outstanding results Sprangel and Stavros, Identify moments of excellence, core values and best practices; Dream: Envision positive possibilities; Design: Create structures, processes and relationships to support the dream; and Destiny: Develop an effective, inspirational plan for implementation.

It provides an AI framework for the strategic planning process, from creation to implementation. Creating momentum by building a strategic plan together enables stakeholders to have a vested, positive grasp on building success.

Focusing on and maximizing what organizations do well creates energy and excitement, pushing individuals and organizations toward optimal performance. The SOAR process also creates and aligns purpose and values as they relate to workplace activity, helping to engage employees.

Organizations do many things well, but often, they do not take the time to reflect on, communicate, build on and maximize these strengths or to determine what is meaningful to key stakeholders.

Through co-creation, SOAR provides opportunities to identify and discuss strengths and opportunities, reframe any underlying issues so that they are viewed through the eyes of possibility, carve out the future and solidify measures to gauge success. It involves a diverse group of stakeholders representing each part of the organization, as well as others outside of the organization, to maximize diverse viewpoints.

External stakeholders can include customers, employees, shareholders, board members, suppliers, volunteers and related communities. Using this methodology supports systems thinking, in that decisions will be made that consider the far-reaching implications of actions. The motivational aspects of SOAR are incredibly powerful, allowing employees and stakeholders, to find their voice in the future plans of the organization.

Stakeholders participate in a workshop experience in which they answer a series of well-formulated questions that align with each category of the SOAR Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results. This facilitated experience will draw out diverse viewpoints and encourage positive conversations about past, current and potential future successes.

The process varies in length but usually takes about eight hours. Opportunity should be provided to allow participants to articulate the ideas formulated through this process, and for dialogue to occur. Key themes will emerge, and the facilitator will draw them out and articulate them in order to construct strategic imperatives for the organization see Figure 1.

A follow-up session is typically required to create the tactical plans to support these strategies.

business planning session

This is a good opportunity to pull in a broader stakeholder group and to communicate what has been done to date. Discussions, debates and alignment will be the outcome of this communication, and the tactical planning by this group is critical, as this group will most certainly be involved in implementing the tactics.

Strategic plans are sometimes created with the best intentions, only to be put on a shelf and revisited only when performance reviews are taking place. However, these plans need to be flexible enough to meet the needs of changing environments.

The SOAR strategic plan should be reviewed on a regular basis and adjusted to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the organization.

The SOAR technique is a specific application of AI principles, providing organizations with an improved framework for strategic planning. Using SOAR within the strategic planning process enable organizations co-create their future pathway to success. A series of shorter meetings?

Participants should represent all levels of the organization and all functional areas.


Ask powerful, positive questions to generate images of possibility and potential. Threats, weaknesses, or problems should not be ignored, but rather should be reframed.Mike Brown. Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation.

Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and . Strategic Planning (Business Toolkit) - Compilation of Strategic Planning frameworks, Strategic Planning templates, Strategic Planning tools, McKinsey Strategic Planning presentations.

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