STRATEGIC PLANNING

Starting Point helps clients to quickly grasp the key issues they face (usually through 1-3 days of interviews, asking questions regarding core competencies, changing environmental conditions, why particular initiatives are important, and how clients will know if they are successful, which helps define performance gaps and measures).

Initial focus is on understanding the gap between where clients are today, and where they would like to be tomorrow. We call these "from/to" statements. We quickly offer "strawmen" for clients to react to, rather than starting with blank slates, which helps clients move much more quickly in their planning and change management initiatives.

We then help clients develop a 1-2 page "performance story" that captures the essence of the change they are trying to create, with a clear sense of how they will know they are successful (as much as possible in measurable, verifiable ways). These stories help clients to make sure they truly understand and can articulate where they are headed, which in turn will help them immensely as they seek to engage others in their efforts.

These efforts can take place at the whole business level, sub-business level, or objective level. For example, in one state government organization, a set of senior executive interviews led to an agency-wide "from/to" statement that helped surface key issues, defined the gap to which their transformation effort is directed, and allowed for common understanding in working with important stakeholders. At the business unit level, departments used a similar approach to defining where they have been, and where they need to head. At the objective level, each agency objective now has a "from/to" statement that clarified and strengthened specific directions for performance improvement and change.

We then help clients articulate early wins that will help them see progress against vision statements and key planning efforts.

  • Outcome wins: Actual results, related to investment return, cost, revenue, cycle time, profit, and other "positive yields"
  • Process wins: Key accomplishments en route to outcome wins, such as key approvals, major milestones met, successful major meetings, etc.
  • Insight wins: Key learning, sometimes from failure, sometimes from research, that clarify important issues
  • Capability wins: New skills or capacities developed, such as systems or data enhancements, or simpler more effective processes

We are reticent to "let go" until statements and plans that often can be "abstract" are translated into concrete reality. Heavy emphasis is placed on "early wins" (process, outcome, insight, and capability) to build capability and momentum for larger scale change.

Once accomplished, then we quickly step back and have substantial faith in the client's capacity to implement. Again, this belief is part of the underlying value proposition of our work.

We typically work with client leadership teams to regularly review progress, always asking this key question: "What is the story of success you would like to be able to tell 3 months from now?" This one question is central to focusing on the key underlying "crux" behind each initiative that must be resolved for further progress to be made. It is a core competency of Starting Point to be able to move very, very quickly to "the heart of the matter" and to offer sensible, pragmatic strategies for moving forward, usually with the help of a "simple to use" tool or approach. To accomplish this work, we facilitate retreats, planning and review sessions, and individual/small group coaching meetings. We also facilitate topic-specific meetings upon request to push the agenda forward.

Underlying this work is a deep belief that planning and action are intertwined, of combining longer term design work with active "doing" and accomplishment, and that there is nothing like concrete success to strengthen organizational capacity to conceive and implement longer term success. Along these lines, we often find that strategic insight is as likely to evolve from action as it is through more analytic approaches.