Strategic Planning: Focus on the Wildly Important


The problem with strategic planning is almost never a lack of ideas; it’s sorting through those ideas and prioritizing them in a manner that makes the biggest difference for the organization.

In April I wrote a post called “A SHRM Chapter Leader’s Dilemma: Urgency, or Importance?” Essentially, the dilemma comes down to making a decision between the day to day operation of the chapter and the initiatives that make the most impact.

After last week’s Texas SHRM Strategic  Planning Meeting I think it’s a good idea to revisit the topic – not as a critique of the work we did – but as a means of illustrating how much more can be accomplished when we focus on the right things!

You see, at the strategic planning meeting we were brilliantly guided through a SWOT Analysis by our SHRM Field Services Director, Sherry Johnson. In groups we addressed the key challenges facing SHRM Chapters across the state, Texas SHRM, and HR professionals as a whole.

Naturally, we came up with a great big pile of amazing ideas! I looked around the room and saw Texas SHRM leaders nodding, taking notes, and discussing each topic as they were presented. This was an awesome thing, but (there’s always a but) it was also a bit overwhelming!

So many ideas…where do we begin?

In The 4 Disciplines of Execution, the day to day operation of an organization is referred to as “the whirlwind”. It’s easy to get sucked in to it, staying busy without accomplishing any of the strategic initiatives that would help the organization move forward.

That being said, it’s important to keep the following passage from The 4 Disciplines of Execution in mind:

“If a team focuses on two or even three goals beyond the demands of their whirlwind, they can often accomplish them. However, if they set four to ten goals, our experience has been that they will achieve only one or two. They’ll be going backward! If they go after eleven to twenty goals in addition to the whirlwind, they’ll lose all focus.”

Now, there’s nothing to say that as we move towards 2015 the ideas shared last Wednesday won’t be narrowed, consolidated and focused into a handful of key initiatives and goals. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that this will be the case!

After all, when we focus on the things that matter most we get them done. When we get them done, we build capacity to take on the next task and so forth. Focus builds momentum that works in our favor and this has been the rule (not the exception) with Texas SHRM the last few years!

My advice then is directed at the folks who attended the meeting but may not see the inner workings involved in narrowing these strategic goals, or to the reader who stumbled upon this blog looking for ways to take their strategic planning sessions to the next level.

When it comes time to hold your own strategic session, gather everyone’s ideas and then focus on the wildly important.

There are lots of ways to do this. One of my personal favorites is through the principles presented in The 4 Disciplines of Execution. To get started spend a few quality minutes watching the video below. You’ll get an overview of the concepts that will help you and your team develop a plan that focuses on the things that make the most impact:

Keep in mind however, that this video is by no means a replacement for the book. The level of detail in the book far exceeds the video and it serves as the ultimate resource for implementing this in any organization.  If you like what you saw in the video, I STRONGLY suggest you grab a copy of the book and put it to good use!


Photo credit: “Prismas Basálticos, Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo, México, 2013-10-10, DD 10” by Diego Delso – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


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