Strategic Dialogue


I am currently in the process of facilitating a short-term, specialized team of individuals to aid in the development of new and aligned practices that best supports our ministry model (with energy, habits, resources, etc.).  Through this process I stumbled upon Ed Barrows’ article titled, “Four Fatal Flaws of Strategic Planning,” that resonated with some of the thoughts and emotions I was having in leading these all-day, strategic discussions.  Here are his top four fatal flaws that can hinder the strategic planning process, along with some personal connecting points:

  1. Skipping Rigorous Analysis: The plan I have laid out is fairly subjective.  I have general gap-analysis & appreciative inquiry principles that are guiding the process, but there is a collective leading of the team’s direction from week to week.  One issue that has surfaced is that as we discuss various components of our ministry model, it is highlighting key areas of needed change.  Our immediate reaction is to go and address those needed changes.  However, due to the deep, systematic complexities of our established organization, the ramifications of even the smallest change can erupt new and hidden problems elsewhere within the church’s discipleship process.  So, we are realizing that a first, in-depth, analytical “sweep” of the entire model is first needed in evaluating the ramifications of assumed and essential alternations.  This process is acting  much like the analysis stage, aiding each team member in achieving a  holistic view of the organizational design, to then come back around and collectively make sound, well-informed decisions that are better integrated and hopefully, more simplistic.
  2. Believing Strategy Can Be Built in a Day: We currently exist within a “doing” culture (to the point of doing too many, unnecessary things).  So in light of how each team member is currently “programmed,” there was a definite feeling of frustration following the first session because no decisions were made (I felt this as well).  There was a subtle assumption that since actions of change weren’t taken, then the session was a failure.  I am discovering that as you don’t want to be on a team that never makes decisions, you also need to create a culture where analytical discussion and theorizing is seen as a healthy component of team formation and strategic development.  It is okay to have days where you dream, discuss, and analyze, with the end result simply needing to meet again.
  3. Failing to Link Strategic Planning with Strategic Execution: As we are making the jump from hoped outcomes to needed practices, there is currently no definitive decision making process in place.  In light of staff transitions and entering in a new season of our church’s history, this ambiguity is understood.  However, we are needing to develop an execution strategy soon, or our sessions will lose purpose, motivation, and longevity.
  4. Dodging Strategy Review Meetings: Though we currently have systems in place that provide individual biweekly checkpoints, along with mid-year and year-end assessments, new patterns will be needed to assess the formation of the new strategies put in place.  To help build a culture of evaluation, I have ensured that at the end of each session there is group input as to how the session went, deciding on where the following session needs to alter (& if we even desire another session).

As we are in the middle of this process, there will be more to reflect on, as these are simply some initial reflections with further refinement to come.


~ by Dave Smith on April 24, 2009.

5 Responses to “Strategic Dialogue”

  1. So when you will get out of the strategizing phase and start doing it?

    /friendly ribbing 😛

  2. FINALLY! Can’t wait to see what you discover.

  3. Yea…a slow process, but hopefully moving forward and not spinning our wheels.

    The decision making process will be in place soon, just waiting on some staff transitions to take place.

  4. i think this post by Seth Godin concisely sums up the tension of @ & 3:

  5. Yea, Seth is wise. I would say we are at the point where we are still needing more information as to what should change…but as clarity is given with each session, it is narrowing the obvious need to make some changes…however, without a complete picture, it still may be premature.

    Definitely at balancing act!

    Thanks Joel

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