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Strategic Planning for an HR Audience

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012
2:00PM-3:00PM EST (Eastern Standard Time)

Few things have the potential to galvanize an organization as much as a bold future. Setting a strong strategic direction for your organization is critical. Even your department and project teams will benefit from focused planning. Unfortunately, people think that strategic planning expertise is solely the domain of highly specialized, external consultants who have to bring their special brand of mojo. Fortunately, there are tools and frameworks that are easy to use and follow and do not require multiple PhDs to decipher. 

Listen to this webinar and learn ways to:
• Present an agile and scalable strategic planning framework
• Provide resources to contribute to a successful planning effort
• Explain techniques to successfully sustain the impact of your strategic planning process
• Demonstrate ways to make your meeting interactive and engaging
• Highlight five critical mistakes to avoid

Monster would like to thank both Bill Treasurer and Laura Cohn for presenting for us!

Presented by:
Bill Treasurer and Laura Cohn
Giant Leap Consulting’s Lead Strategic Planning Team

Bill and Laura have more than 1,000 hours of collective experience with strategic planning.  Having worked with for-profit, non-profit, government agencies, academic institutions, and everything in between; their experience has helped them to refine a highly effective planning process that helps organizations define their bold future.  You can learn more about them and Giant Leap Consulting at

Webinar Transcript: Strategic Planning for an HR Audience

Good afternoon. I'm Randi Alterman. I'm the marketing director with Monster. I'd like to thank you for joining us today for this exclusive webinar hosted by Monster Intelligence. Today's webinar is titled "Strategic Planning for an HR Audience." In this Monster Intelligence webinar, we're joined by Bill Treasurer and Laura Cohn. This webinar will showcase why setting a strong strategic direction for your organization is critical yet easy.

Before we get started, I have a few housekeeping items to mention. The presentation and a copy of today's recording will be posted on within two to three days. We are recording this session. You click on the resources tab and go to HR events. All participants will receive an email with a direct link to today's material. For our Twitter fans, you can also follow us right now on the hashtag #monsterlive.

Monster Intelligence provides insights to help HR professionals improve recruiting success, accelerate worker performance, and retain top talent. We analyze and collect data from over four million unique job searches that are performed on Monster each and every day. We invite you to visit and read some of our other in-depth reports and analyses, all located under the Resources tab. There will be time after today's presentations for some questions and answers, and our meeting manager will help facilitate that Q&A. Please feel free at any time to type your questions into the available space during the event and we'll try to include them in the Q&A. Additionally, if you are getting your audio through the telephone, you will be placed on mute until the Q&A session begins.

Well, now I'd like to welcome today's speakers, Bill Treasurer and Laura Cohn. Bill Treasurer has led several webinars for us in the past, and is the originator of The New Leadership Practices, Courage Building, and the author of "Courage Goes to Work," an internationally bestselling book about managerial courage. Bill is also the author of "Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace."

Laura Cohn has worked for Bill for years to refine her approach to strategic planning and develop easy yet useful tools and techniques for teaching the sessions, engaging, and making them ultimately worthwhile and productive.

In addition to working with numerous chapters, Bill and Laura have conducted strategic planning efforts for all sorts of organizations, including large organizations like the National Science Foundation, Walsh Construction, Bank of America Merchant Services, and Eldridge Electric, state non-profits like the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy and Enable America, and even a tech company whose work is so top secret, they're not even going to tell us its name. They've also led strategic planning efforts for cutting-edge research efforts being conducted at many top universities. Their approach to planning work for all kinds of organizations and we're pleased that they're here today to share their insight and experience with all of us. And now let's turn the webinar over to you.

Well, thank you so much. Thank you Randi, I really appreciate it. It's great to be with you again. Randi Alterman has been very helpful in getting prepared for today's session. We've been working with Randi, as well as Lisa Davis at, for quite some time to make sure that we could put on a session that was ultimately useful to the over 800 of you that have registered for today's webinar from all around the world. And I want to thank you all for being here. It really gives me a sense that there's a strong desire out there to do strategic planning right. Maybe it grows out of some frustration that you had in doing strategic planning sessions in the past, or maybe it just grows out of your desires to do strategic planning now, so that you get a solid sense of the future or at least through the next couple of years for your own HR Department and organization.

One frequent complaint that you probably have heard before or certainly you've read about, when it comes to HR, is sometimes that HR isn't strategic enough. And sometimes, they're not at the table because they don't speak the strategic language. So one of the goals of today's session will be to really give some strategic thought about how to do strategic planning to increase our credibility within the organizations that we serve.

There are a lot of approaches to strategic planning. Many of you on the webinar have attended strategic planning sessions, perhaps led strategic planning sessions, and we have been introduced to different approaches and such. We're not saying that our approach is the best approach that ever was, we're saying that our approach is useful and it's practical, and it's born out of our real work that we do with clients every day from large and small organizations - profit and non-profit.

So we're bringing to you our methodology as practitioners of strategic planning to create a courageous future. In fact, I'm calling in today from Asheville, North Carolina. I happen to be the board chair of Leadership Asheville, a small non-profit here at Asheville, and I'm using the framework tomorrow as the chairperson of that organization. I'm not conducting it as a facilitator but usually with the board itself so that we develop a solid strategic plan for the future as well.

You're going to get a lot of tips. This is going to be jam-packed with information. I also want you to know that if you want additional tips after the webinar, please go to, sign up for our newsletter, and you'll get five additional strategic planning tips that will be coming to you over five weeks. I'll remind you again at the end of the webinar for that. We've also saved time at the end of the webinar for Q&A because we definitely want to hear from you and answer whatever questions that you've got. With that, because we've got a really tight agenda and we're going to move at a very fast clip, I'm going to turn it over to Laura Cohn, who's going to introduce us to the agenda.

Thanks Bill. I just want to review with everyone what our planned agenda is for today. Bill, this was a great welcome and we have an introduction that what we're hoping to cover, but also we want to spend a little time talking about what's the value of planning in the first place. We know that people have limited time and limited resources. So what is the value that planning can bring to your department or your organization? We're going to also take a walk through the framework that we use at Giant Leap to organize the science so that there's really strong correlation between everything from the big picture down to the specific actions that you're going to be taking. We're going to take some time to walk you through that and get you familiar with the framework.

Throughout the session, we're also going to be providing you with some facilitation kits that we have learned throughout our years of doing strategic planning efforts that we developed and refined, that we find help us to keep it interactive and engaging for participants. We've identified five mistakes that you'll find a lot of people make regarding strategic planning effort. We're going to identify those mistakes and then provide you advice and tips on how you can avoid making those mistakes yourself. So that's our plan for today's agenda.

We actually have our first poll question for you. We had a few polling questions throughout the day that we're going to open up in to you. The first one is: on a scale of one to five, one being very boring and five means very engaging, how boring has past strategic planning meeting firms that you attended? We're going to give you 15 to 20 seconds to get your answer in, as you consider past strategic planning efforts that you may have been involved in. And think about how either boring or how engaging by working with them. As we wait for those poll results to come in, we often use this question as a way to kick-start strategic planning meetings because, frankly, it adds a little levity to the process. And we recognize that often people find strategic planning to be a difficult and sometimes boring and tedious process.

One of the ways that we try to set people up to demonstrate that Giant Leap approach is about being engaging and invested in the process; enjoying your time together, and enjoying the planning process -- so much of the value that comes from that. So if we look at the results, about 55 percent - half of you - gave it about mid-range, you gave it a three, and it being somewhat boring and then some of you are below that. And I'm happy to see that some of you have got involved in strategic training meetings that you really found to be effective and engaging as well. Do you have something you want to add to this?

What I would add is that part of our own -- the reason that we have put together an engaging strategic planning framework, is based on our own frustrations being participants in strategic planning sessions. I'm a person who bore very easily, so we mix it up with a blended learning approach to de-boringize the strategic planning process so that it's engaging. At the end of the day, you want people's full focus and attention, and if they're checking out because it's a mundane process with simply throwing a bunch of halfwit slides for example; or throwing a bunch of research at them but not enough time for dialogue, then you're not going to get their full engagement, full attention, and good ideas. We try to de-boringize our presence wherever we can.

All right. Why would a courage-building company be doing strategic planning? It's a good question. We think it's because it takes courage to set a bold direction. Strategic planning done right can affect all aspects of your organization. Think outside of HR right now and strategic planning is done in your own organization if it's done, and it can impact the need to change. You come up with strategic initiatives, it means that a new change direction might come forward which may dictate new leadership behaviors, some of which don't exist within the company as it exist today. And you might have to hire in from outside or train from within the company. It's disruptive from a behavioral stand point. It can cascade through the organization, requiring a culture change to get you to the future you're trying to get to, it might require a different set of core competencies and frankly a different set of value that could impact the entire organization.

It takes a lot of courage to be willing to release yourself from the past - build on the past - in order to create a bold engaging future that everybody wants to grab hold to. This is true at the organizational level, but it's also true within the HR department or function itself. To be able to create a bold direction that ties to the rest of the organization's mission, and inspires everyone to want to come to work every day takes courage. "Plans," Winston Churchill said, "are worthless."

It's not the plan that matters, planning is everything. Churchill said, "Plans are worthless. Planning is everything." What he meant by that is it's not the document that is going to be birthed out of the strategic planning process that's important. It's not perfectionizing the deliverable. What's matters most is getting your team together, circling up, grappling through hard issues together, making tough decisions together, and ultimately coming to agreement and alignment as to what is the HR department functions are all about, and do we communicate that with consistency to other people in the organization so that we can create a clear picture of the value that we deliver to the rest of the organization through HR. I'll let Laura pick up this idea.

One of the ways that we really found that clients that we've worked with in the past, when they're creating a strategic planning process and they look back on the time in an interview they've invested in, they recognize that it was a wonderful and meaningful time for them to come together. So they can come to alignment about their purpose and their important goals. For example, one of the organizations we have worked with is the National Science Foundation. There's a little research center at Michigan State University and it's called the Beacon Center. It is a group of scientific researchers from across from different -- from Chemistry and Physics and Biology, to the social sciences of Sociology and Anthropology, and even Engineers and Mathematicians.

There are people that are coming from across differences at that time, as well as different Universities. They are the members of research centers at their universities, and received the funding for their research and for their project. The first time they were actually all together in the same room to hash through what they want to achieve through their five years together. Listen, Bill and I and some of our colleagues went to join them during their strategic planning effort. And for them it was a really fruitful opportunity to really convey and discuss what they're hoping to achieve, and what they can all bring from their differences at that time and through their different expertise, how they can make a meaningful impact in their school. So, the Beacon Center and many of the other organizations we worked through the years, we have found that the opportunity that comes through alignment has been a wonderful outcome of the strategic planning.

One of the first mistakes we want to identify and discuss with you is that we find that a lot of times, when people are going through a specific planning process, they're not including enough voices, enough perspectives when they're developing the plan. They may think that the only people who need to be involved in the strategic planning process are those who are in executive leadership or perhaps just the CEO levels, or just the head of the department with just a few key advisors. They don't involve a variety of voices, and what we find with that is that their plans can get a little stagnant, a little cold. They also don't have all the valuable information that they need to be truly applicable and useful when it comes to implementation.

So, we encourage you to avoid this first mistake by doing some work to bring in additional perspectives to your process. Some of the things that we do are conducting pre-session interviews with key stakeholders, so these are either done in person or over the phone. They take one hour or so and they're confidential conversations so we have the time to really dive in to a variety of questions that fit into the purpose and the goals and opportunities that are facing that organization.

Another tool you can use is an online survey. There are so many good ones that are very easy to use and free to low cost that reference another great resource to take advantage of. We often also do online surveys of other stakeholders to help get additional information and an insight into the strategic planning process. Here, we even have a few examples of some of the interview questions we use when we're conducting those one-on-one conversations. We'll ask questions like: on a scale of one to four, how well do you think you understand the mission of your organization? We ask them to describe the mission in their own words, and to tell us how well they think their organization is advancing toward the mission. So these are some examples of how you can get some qualitative as well as quantitative results in this process, so that you can gather information and insights to share with the group during the process.

For some sample survey questions, these are some that I'm using with a client that I'm working with right now, and we use the abbreviation for their department. In this survey, we're asking people who are alumni of this organization to dream big and tell some ideas about what they would like to see the department do in the coming years, and then also to reflect on how well the department prepared them or how they could improve their academic training. These are some different questions that you can use - but you can make your own rather - to bring in additional perspectives and voices into the training process.

It's very important to do that as well. We worked with one organization in Chicago that happens to be the second largest landowner in the United States after the US government. The CIO had brought us in to do a strategic planning process. To include additional perspectives, we suggested in the agenda early on, to actually bring the department heads that the CIO was responsible for building systems for into the session - and every time individually. And then his team would asked them questions and those people would communicate what they were pleased with the IT department about and what they would like to see stronger. It's basically bringing the customers in that case of IT, you can do the same thing with HR to invite a few dignitaries within the organization who HR serve to get their perspective, honestly, candidly, forthrightly - and if you can sit there without defensiveness and actually hear the feedback - it becomes good grounding for the rest of the strategic planning process as you go through it.

I want to introduce you right now to the framework that we use, and this is an easy-to-apply framework. You don't have to bring in highfalutin, high paid consultant from the outside to do this yourself. The first thing that we cover is the mission. We suggest that the mission that you have: be the organization mission as you're going through the HR planning process, and that you come in under the mission level and go to the goals and then cascade through the rest of the process which I'll describe. That said, it is also okay to develop your own mission of the HR function as long as it closely connects to the organizations mission. The mission, of course, is the collective reason for being articulated for internal and external audiences. The organization's mission tends to be communicating to external audiences but the HR function you'd want to communicate to internal audiences, especially for your own team.

And then we move to goals. Our goals are those areas that we need to make progress in if we are to successfully accomplish our mission. For an HR function, three or four goals would be enough, beyond five would definitely be too many, and we'll drill down in each one of these in just a moment. Then we have something that we call Optimal Outcomes, this connect to a different distinct goal area. If you take one of your goals, you flesh it out by saying, "If we were to already have made progress in this area, optimally, what would we expect to see?"

What would be the optimal outcome to be that we hope to achieve in this particular goal area? Once we get our optimal outcome, we have to have ways to hold ourselves accountable. So it's not enough to have qualitative references and anecdotal evidence, we need actual hard measures that show that we're making impact towards those goals that we're trying to aim for. So we select units of measures, those are the yardsticks with which we're trying to gauge project progress, and then we have to select specific targets on those measures. We have to then put together the targets for the next year or so in the short term, or the next three years in the long term with which we're trying to pursue. And then finally, we want to come together with the best task action that will move the needle on those specific targets so that we can gauge the progress we're making towards the optimal outcome, which connects to the goal, which connects to the mission.

All of it ties together. The idea being that by the time that you distill the actual actions that are going to take place within the HR function, connect it to given people pursuing those given actions, there should be a tight logic chain as to why you're doing the action in the first place. So it brings coherency to all the different actions that are going on within the HR to function, should be connecting to a goal that ultimately connects to the mission. Because otherwise, it's not mission critical, and it's extraneous, and it's probably getting in the way of your effectiveness as the HR department.

Whenever we're going through this framework, we move down a chain of "how." Once we go through the goal and we say, "Okay, suppose our goal is that we want to increase the professionalism of our staff." Then we ask ourselves, "Okay, if that's our goal, how do we do that?" Well, what are we trying to get done in the optimal outcomes? And then we identify what those are, and then we say, "Okay, then how will we do that?" Well, let's measure it and we say, "How do we do that?" Well, we've got to put together these actions that will allow us to do it. So we follow a chain of "how" on the way down. But then when we get to the action if we at some point in time say, "Now, wait a minute, why were we doing this action? Oh yeah, why we were doing that is because it's connected to this smart target. Yeah, but, why do we have that smart target in place? Oh, because it's connected to this optimal outcome we're trying to achieve. Oh yeah, and why are we trying to get that optimal outcome? Because it connects to this goal." So, we go "why?" on the way up and we go "how?" on the way down.

We have the next poll question for me to complete now. Bill mentioned, traditionally, strategic planning efforts are done at an organizational level but also there's a need to do them at a department level such as within an HR department or even at a project level. If you're interested in organizational level strategic planning, department level, project team level, or if you're just interested in learning more. We'll leave the question open for 15 to 20 seconds also for you to respond to. We think it's very valid to view strategic planning at the department or even the project level. We certainly worked with clients who have done that work before. The importance is to of course remember that the plan of the department or the project team should still be in alignment with the organization's overall direction. You don't want to just go off in a new direction that doesn't support the purpose of the overall organization. For example, if your organization has a specific profit goal, HR may contribute to that by focusing on minimizing employee turnover and increasing retention. Or if your organization has a specific sales goal, HR may contribute to that by evaluating if they have the people on their sales team that are needed to achieve that goal, or how to recruit the people who are needed.

Here, we're hearing that the majority of you are just interested in learning more and that there are a fairly even split of you who are interested in learning more for the organization or the department level, and a few of you for the project team. Welcome to everyone and we hope that the information here will apply to all of your interests and will be a helpful resource to you. I'm going to turn it back over to Bill so that he can tell us a little bit more about the mission models with strategic planning.

The mission is our collective reasons for being, to articulate it for external audiences - typically, at the organizational level; and internal audiences, if you're developing it at the HR level within the department. We're going to quickly do another poll here to see how well the people in your organization understand the mission. I'll let Laura key this up and then she'll tell you about how we go about mission crafting.

Great. Thanks, Tom. Another poll question for you: on a scale of one to five, where one means not at all and five means completely, how well do you think that people you work with understand the mission of your organization? It's about how well the people you work with understand the mission rather than you yourself. We just want to point out that distinction in the question. This is another example of a question that we often use in our pre-strategic planning interview process. We' use it sometimes on the one-on-one interview, as well as in the online survey. We'll give you a few more minutes or a few more seconds to record your response to this poll. Let's see how your colleagues understand the mission - how well your colleagues understand the mission, and then we're going to get into a little more about one of the techniques we use to help an organization or even a department go through the process of crafting their mission. Because then, when we're doing a session, they're typically down and we don't have the luxury of spending two full days having a mission crafting question. We try to use an economy process.

Here, we'll see your responses. On a scale of one to five where one was not at all and five completely, we see a fairly even distribution between the levels of two, three, and four. I would have to say that I feel like you guys are more generous than a lot of the other people that we talk to. Often when we talk to people about their impressions of how well their colleagues understand the mission, we have a lot more responses in the one, two, or three category than we do the four or the five. We find that people often give their own sound of the job, so that if we asked you how well you understand the mission, sometimes people tend to make their own understanding higher than their colleagues. So this is just another way - another example of how you can get some interesting information to use and inform your strategy.

Now we'll look at one of the techniques we use for the development of a mission statement. We often use a process that we call the Elevator Speech and then maybe you're familiar with it - this is a common practice. But also it's used to talk about how people can articulate what they're good at, what their expertise is, or something that they're hoping to gain or achieve in your own professional career or individual lives. We focus it more on getting people to use this as an opportunity to describe the mission of their organization or the purpose of their department.

So the instructions that we give are that we want everyone at their table to individually sit down and consider: if you are on an elevator and you got on bottom floor and you were going to the 30th floor and somebody on the elevator looked over and saw your name tag or perhaps the logo of your organization on something that you were wearing and said, "Tell me more about who that is and what you do there" what would you say to them? If you just had to stand in an elevator ride to describe the work of your organization, what would you tell them? So we give them the prompts to consider: of what they say should clarify what the organization does, it should speak to the unique contributions that the organization makes into the marketplace. Also, hopefully, a person wants to learn more about the organization. It should have something that leaves a hook and a little sticky, it resonates with the person for some reason.

We give people these question prompts and we give them just a few minutes to consider their answers, and then we ask people to stand up and to walk around the room, find somebody to speak to, and each person is given a minute to talk to their partner, and in the time of that minute give their elevator speech. The first person who gives their elevator speech, you tell them to stop, the other person in the pair gives their elevator speech and then you tell them to rotate again and still find somebody else to speak too. It gets people up and out of their seats, moving around the room, and certainly increases the energy in the room. It gives people an opportunity to practice what they say several times. That's to also hear what other people are saying and start identifying what resonates with them. We find that this is often a really valuable tool to tee up for progress of articulating a mission statement, especially if it's going through a refining process.

This is Bill. The other thing we often find is that we're all communicating about what we do differently, and it often illustrates the lack of alignment and the need for us to come to greater clarity in communicating what we're all about. We very often do this in the beginning of a session, typically within the first hour, to tee up the mission statement to underscore the importance of doing it because the lack of alignment becomes very clear.

Absolutely. Thanks for adding that, Bill. The second mistake that we wanted to identify is that we find so often that people spend the time and the energy to develop a strategic plan for them to actually implement it. The second mistake to avoid is not using the plan that you create. Earlier on in our work with Giant Leap and meeting strategic planning sessions, where I have a client who called us up and said, "We really enjoyed the strategic planning process you led us through before. We're ready for you to come back. We need to update this. We're ready for you to come back and help us through that process." Of course we would be curious and we would ask, "How did the first plan work for you?" And they would say, "Well, hold on just a minute," and walk over to their bookcase and pull the plan off the bookshelf, and blow the dust off of it, pat the dust off of it, and say, "Well, we never really used it but it was a really good process."

We agree that the planning process is very important, but we think that the implementation of the plan is also a really valuable resource and you shouldn't avoid that. How to avoid this mistake is to ensure that someone has the responsibility for completing and distributing the actual plan after the strategic planning session. Somebody needs to have the responsibility of taking on the move, all of the ideas, all of the decisions, and condensing it into one document that's distributed to everyone who needs it so that there can be a common document to work off of.

And then we find a really valuable way that some clients have incorporated the strategic plan into their work is to incorporate contributions to strategic initiatives and to the performance review process of employees during the annual review time. So if employees are successfully contributing to our success in strategic initiative that needs to be recognized and praised, and if they're not, then it also has to be recognized and addressed. We've found those two meaningful ways to avoid the mistake of not ever implementing the strategic plan that you've worked so hard to develop.

We'll share with you another way to sustain the plan to ensure to implement this later on as well. So we've talked about mission a little bit, now we're going to move into goals, and typically this is where you would drop in. You would probably drop in under the organization's mission to start the development of the HR department's strategic plan, and it would start with the goals. Goals are high level areas that if we are able to accomplish these four or five things, we will have successfully achieved that mission. These are high level goals that we're pursuing. Optimal outcomes are many visions, if you will, for each one of the goals. Now, I'm going to drill down here to explain this concept a little bit more, moving onto the next slide.

Here's some examples of goal areas, if you move back up, these are examples of goal areas that HR - as a function - could consider. And you would have your own bullets in your own organization based on the nomenclature that you use within your HR department. But typically recruiting would its own area. Performance management and appraisal would be its own area, it could also include compensation. Compliance, EEOC, and legal would be its own area. Development, leadership development, staff development would be its own area. Managing talent throughout the organization might be its own area. But you would have to decide - within your own HR function - what are the areas that would make most sense. The key here though is to make it manageable. Do not put 50 different areas that you're going to be having goals for - I would say 5 or less; beyond 5 is too many.

Let me give an example, let's move to the next slide. One goal area might be staff development. You could broaden it to organizational development and talk about the entire training function - for example - but let's just think about your own staff for a minute - so the HR function. One goal under staff development, a goal might be stated in a goal statement - and this is what we'd like you to create - for each one of these goals to come up with a single sentence that defines what you're trying to do in that goal area. For example, if your goal area was staff development, your goal might be: to proactively educate and develop our HR staff so that everyone demonstrates a high degree of skill and professionalism. In other words, we have a broad reputation within the organization that we're really skilled and really professional. That's a worthwhile goal statement for staff development.

Underneath this, I want to show you in real life how a goal statement might look. One of our clients is a top-secret company that we cannot tell you much about. It's in the technology arena. We developed a strategic planning process for them. To give you an idea, it's such specialized talent that to hire one person in one of their technology roles takes on average an application process of a 150 people before they hone in on the right talent to be able to hire them for their highly skilled, highly specialized technology company that is a civilian company that deals with the defense department.

They had a number of goal areas; three that they have are client relationships to sell their very unique secret product to the government. Another goal area that they have was technology because they have to be on the cutting edge of technology. But the other is that they have these folks that are basically white hat hackers that have to work with management discipline. So you have this very independent-minded person but they have to have management rigor and discipline in place, so they take the goal area of employees. They recognize that they want to create a great place to work.

The employee goal statement that they came up with in a single sentence to identify what they are trying to do relative to the employee ego, is we become the premier employer for exceptionally talented technical professionals who are passionate about their mission. That last part was just a key as having technical people, they needed patriots working for this company. Because if they had hired white hat hackers, they had to be sure that their independent people; who can work with technical savvy in their blue jeans in remote location and still be so patriotic to the government that they would never be turncoat, if you will. That's about as much information that I could share without putting myself in jeopardy, but I wanted to give a sense of what a goal statement looks like for a given goal area.

Now, back to the example of your own HR department. If we said that our staff development goal was to proactively educate and demonstrate our staff that everybody has a high degree of skill and professionalism to develop our staff, then one optimal outcome to gauge whether we done this or not - in other words - if we're doing this staff development goal - we really have well educated, highly developed staff, they're known for their professionalism and skills throughout the company - what would we expect to see optimally? We call this an Optimal Outcome.

One optimal outcome, among others, might be that the HR Department starts receiving positive, unsolicited feedback from the other departments in business units about our exemplary professionalism. In other words, we start to get a broad reputation within the company as upholding professionalism and high skilled people. So there's now logic and connection as to what we're trying to achieve. We're going to share with you a couple of real-life examples of other optimum outcomes. I'm turning it back to Laura.

These are a few examples of optimal outcomes that other clients we worked with have developed. Another organization or another center that was working in the technology sales client innovation. They had a specific goal around knowledge transfer, which is innovations with other institutions and companies are shared. You might have a leadership and management goals that can work-- there's one organization who really wanted to emphasize collaboration and training across the organization. There have been a situation there where they were really starting to get stressed in separate silos of expertise and weren't cross-pollinating ideas. They really wanted to change on making a culture shift in that area. That's what they were trying to achieve with our optimal outcome.

Another organization we worked with has an outreach optimal outcome, where they envisioned that they would infuse a greater public awareness about how adults can help protect their local waterways. It really focused in on their mission, but it was a way that they were going to be able to assess if they were being successful in their outreach efforts.

Another process tip that we use in the development of goal statements as well as optimal outcome, sometimes it helps to advance the process if a few key members of the organization get together to pre-craft goal statements. We use the pre-workshop interviews and survey times to help develop those, and then we also use a process of five-finger voting to ratify this pre-crafted goal statements, they all just quickly describe that process. If you imagine five fingers on your hand, what we tell people is that in a moment, we're going to ask them to vote on a goal statement that's before them. And using their hands, they're going to show how strongly they agree with the statement. If they put their hand up and they've got five fingers up, they think it's perfect.

They think it's perfectly stated, dead-on, and good to go. If they give a four, it means that they think it's really well stated, there might be one thing that they would change if they could, but they think it's really good - it's a strong A. If they give a three, it's more of a B. So they can live with it, it's not perfect, there are some things that they would change but they can live with it. If they only give two fingers during this voting process, it means that they can't live with it. There are more things that have to be changed that are correct, and it really needs to go back to the drawing board. And number one means they absolutely cannot live with it. It is not accurate at all and it really needs to be strongly revised. That's one of the tips, or one of the processes we also use during the planning process to accelerate it.

For optimal outcomes, we often use the quality track that you can now see on your screen. One group, for example, might develop the larger audience of people who are in the room into smaller groups to work on different goal areas to identify optimal outcomes within a goal area. If a sub team has developed the optimal outcome for one goal area to pursue development, they will come back and direct their ideas to the rest of the groups. And we ask the room to use these questions as a quality check to see if the optimal outcome is stated as a result, if it's an indicator of growth towards the goal, and if these are really the critical components that are key to that goal area.

We have another mistake that we find that people sometimes make with the strategic planning process and it's that also people want to jump straight to action. So often this happens when they together in the room to begin with strategic planning process, people want to jump straight to action. The problem with that is that if you get right to action, you don't have any idea if everyone's on the same with that, you honestly don't know if people are in alignment around the purpose and the direction of the organization. So we encourage people to-- we tell people to avoid that mistake by spending time just to find the big picture. That's why we think it's so critical to spend the time that it takes to really come into alignment around the mission and the purpose of your organization to identify your important goal area, to create those goal statements, and also to identify what the optimal outcomes are for each goal area. Following this process really garners a higher quality of result when you start with the big picture and work down into action, eventually.

Another way that you can avoid it is you want to be sure that you've explained the how and the why. If you remember the slide that Bill showed us earlier with the arrow pointing down and the arrow pointing up, that helps us to remember the how and the why we're going to take every action. It does really matter that you got to start with that big picture first. I think Bill is going to tell us a little more now about how we can measure and assess our impact and assess our success in the training process.

It's important to make sure that there's some accountability towards getting the goals of this strategic plan done. We feel that it's very important to have measures of impact. There are two related agenda chunks that we go through as we talk about this, and the first is units of measure. We need to identify what is the unit of measure. For example, we could say employee engagement that is a unit of measure. And then we could say, "How would we measure that?" We could measure it by an employee satisfaction or employee engagement survey, and then we say, "If that's the unit of measure, employee engagement is measured by an employee engagement survey, where on that measurement would we like to be?"

We want to make sure that when we put together measures that they are SMART, you've heard this acronym before, and I'll show you very quickly. SMART target is of course our Specific, Measurable, have to be Achievable, they should be Realistic, and they should Time-bound, that it should have some deadline element to it. Here's just a few examples of SMART targets, we do them in every session. These are just two small example. Supposed that 75% of facilitators report being engaged in power and productive on an annual survey to be administered by the 1st of December. This gives you the exact number that you're trying to achieve, and in this case it's about facilitator engagement, empowerment, and productivity, based on a survey. So now you know the deadline and you know the exact target of what you're trying to achieve, in this case 75% engagement.

Here's another example. Increase the number of new strategic initiatives emerging from the staff planning session by 25% as measured by the annual review. So we want to make sure that each one of our staff members is attached to its strategic initiative and we would say, "We want to make sure that new initiatives being spawned from our staff, increase by 25% by the end of the year as measured by the annual survey." That's just a couple of examples. Back to our own HR examples, we talked about staff development - practically engage and develop our staff so that everybody demonstrate professionalism - our optimal outcome which the HR department receives unsolicited feedback about our professionalism. Units of measure here might be that the unit of that measure could be that we get positive, unsolicited accolade from other departments and business units. Our unit of measure is unsolicited accolades. The SMART target might be, we get two positive unsolicited accolades per quarter for our department and one accolade per team member per year. Now we're taking that optimal outcome in enhancing our reputation as professional, because it connects to our staff goal of having highly skilled professional people, and we put a measurable target to it.

And this brings us to the fourth mistake that we find organizations make with planning. There's often a lack of linkage between the goals, the targets, and the actions. The way you can avoid this mistake is some simple things: one is just to post the outcome on the wall so that everyone can see what's being contributed. For gearing a training process, a goal testament being created as optimal outcomes for being identified, a smart targets were being set, write them on a clip chart or on some templates and post them on the walls around the room so that people can see the output of the team. It makes it easier to conduct quality checks, to be sure there's tight linkages. You can really use those quality checks to keep things accountable, and you can always test to see if this SMART target connect to an optimal outcome, and does this optimal outcome serve a goal statement. You always want to be sure the work that you're setting up for yourself is going to be of service of achieving the goals that you want, that you set for yourself.

Great. Now we get to the final part of the framework and that is action items. Those are the concrete steps at the brass tack level. When we break it down and get tactical, what are we going to do and who is going to do it by when? Keep in mind though, this action that we always showcase with our participants, strategic activity is always superimposed on full work schedules. The reality is you're going to burst new to-dos on top of people who already have a full inbox and a full list of to-dos that they're already working. When we get to the action level and it's time to raise people's hands as to who's going to do what, sometimes there's a little hesitancy.

Here's an example of an actual action item as it relates to the goal that we've been working with as an example for the HR department. Remember, we said we wanted to proactively educate and develop our staff so that everybody demonstrates a high degree of skill and professionalism. We said that our optimal outcome would be that we have a broad reputation as evidenced by unsolicited feedback that we get within the company about our professionalism. We said a unit of measure might be that we get these unsolicited accolades from other departments and business units. We put a SMART target of two unsolicited accolades per quarter for the team and one accolade per team member per year. So now we say, "Okay, great, then how are we going to make sure that we get these accolades based on our professionalism?" The action would be to send an internal survey to the department and business unit executives to understand how they define professionalism. So it goes back to the: these are your stakeholders, they're the ones who are going to determine whether you look professional in their eyes, and you could simply ask them on a questionnaire, "What would cost you to give us an unsolicited accolade at the end of the year based on the HR department's professionalism?" Now we get to actual actions that we would develop a survey: who's going to own that? Who's going to distribute the survey? Who's going to tally the results? When are they going to get it done by, et cetera? We can move to brass tack action to move the needle on our ability to become professional. Back to Laura.

We have two techniques that we're going to share with you that we use during the action item portion of our strategic planning session. The first you see is a template, and this is the exact template that we used at Giant Leap that you see on the screen now. As you can see, there are areas on this template to write in the goal area that it connects to which optimal outcome it serves, which SMART target its [synergy?] in direct service to you, and then plenty of space to write in your action items, and then two really important squares on this are the point of contact or the point.

These are the people who are going to be accountable for getting the action items done, or to make sure it's done by somebody else as well as the due date. These are another easy ways to infuse accountability into your process, because somebody's going to have to step up and get this done.

These templates are one thing that we use and then something else we use is called Dot Voting. If you would imagine, if you had perhaps four goal statement because our four goal areas put in your strategic plan, at the end of the day on one wall you could have four columns - one for each goal area that have action coming down in each of those areas. If you got four goal areas, what we review is the process is if you would give everyone in the room four round colors they could draw. And we would ask them to use one dot in each of the goal areas and decide which actions they think is most critical to achieve first. This is how to give the leadership an idea of what the people in the room see as critical actions that needs to be taken.

It doesn't mean that those are going to necessarily be the first things done and it doesn't mean that actions-- goals without any sticky dots won't be a success, but it is just another interactive way to give the people in the room to speak to what they see as priority areas. And then what you see here, it illustrates that it adds some color, it adds some color to the room and to the process. This is from a recent art exhibition in New Zealand. There was a white room and it gave kids the chance to decorate the room however they wanted and this is the end result. It's another interactive process that you can use to make the training process engaging for people.

The fifth and final mistake you want to identify for you to avoid is a lack of accountability, which I spoke to some-- referring to the action template. Ways that you can avoid the fifth mistake are to appoint overseers. People who are going to help to be responsible to make sure everything's completed in a proper and timely way. To use the template such as the action item template, to be sure that everything on that template is filled in and that every action has somebody who's going to be responsible for getting it done or seeing that it's done as well as a payday that they're going to be held accountable to.

We also encourage people to use momentum meetings and these can be held in whatever speed is appropriate for the organization, but it could be quarterly or something of that nature. And it's an opportunity to come together, to pull out the strategic plan, and to track progress made. Our key allows time for the conversation to occur? Key actions being done that need to occur? That information has come in that might inform some revisions for the plan that we put together? Have we experienced some successes? Are we hitting SMART targets, are we now below them? What does that mean to us? And what we often find with these momentum meetings, is that when people see them on their calendar and in the two weeks or so before those momentum meetings, a flurry of work will be done on the strategic initiative. Because they know that they're going to have to be there in front of their peers, and they're going to be held accountable.

We really have found momentum meetings to be a really successful way to infuse accountability into the process. Also, we really think it's important to celebrate success that's going to help encourage people to keep going when it gets tough - to really celebrate the successes you achieve as well.

We're going to open it up to questions here. I do want to remind you, if you'd like Five Additional Strategic Planning Tips, if you go to, signup for our newsletter within the next 48 hours, you'll get these five tips over the course of the next five weeks. And with that, let's turn it over to Randi, if you could open up the questions for us.

Yes, I will. We don't have that much time at the end. First, I just want to say thanks to Bill and Laura for once again sharing your insight and knowledge with everyone today. I think we just have time for one or two really quick questions. The first one, I'll just take them from ones that I have typed in here. The first one that we got during the presentation was: we always start with a strategy but go off by mid-year, how can we get senior management to stick to the strategy we set?

This is a point of contention and frustration for Giant Leap Consulting when we started our business ten years ago, and that's why we developed this idea of momentum meetings. We now weave it into our contracts. We say, "Look, one month after you develop your strategic plan, we're going to reconvene; re-validate that these are the right measures; and then quarterly throughout the year, you're going to bring us in again as an accountability vehicle instead of trying to do that yourself." We find that the momentum meetings are a great way, and we have a vested interest as an outside consultant, because we want to be able to continue to work with the organization. So there's this mutual accountability. I would say momentum meetings are a really good way to do that.

Let me just take one more question, and the questions was: "How do you modify the strategy of a small business?" I don't even know if you need to, Bill, but I thought I'd ask. Did that question go through? Does the strategy need to be modified depending on the business size?

We use it with our own business. We have a business that we've got 12 people, which offers consulting. I think that it scales very well. The only difference that I would say if you have a small team, or a small department, or a small business, is that your mission may be much more focused and less grandiose. Your mission is not going to be to see the world, but your mission is going to be much more narrow. It's also possible that you only have three goals and that's very, very legitimate. I would say it's basically taking the framework and shrinking it down to the size of your organization, not feeling obliged to the grandiose and make it work for you. If you need to pull out one of these agenda items in the framework, you can feel free to do so. Just make sure that you retain the accountability. At the end of the day you want to make sure you've got actions with action owners, but it should be connected to something you're trying to achieve at a higher level with a broader measurement - if you will - a broader needle. I think it scales quite well between small departments or big functions. We have used it with small non-profits, small organizations like our own and big giant ones.

I think we're hitting the top of the hour, just because we have so little time for questions. I just want to tell the participants on the call, if they would like to send a question into, we'll make sure we get them to Bill and Laura and they can answer you directly. Our apologies that we ran out of time but right now I would like to thank Bill and Laura for sharing their expertise with us and conclude our event. A recording of this event, as well as the presentation materials will be available shortly on our hiring site:, located under the resource tab. Again, everyone will get an email with a direct link to today's materials. Thanks so much everyone for joining us. Join us again on February 22nd for an exclusive webinar titled "Employee Communications Version 2012." Everyone have a wonderful day. Thank you.

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