Ground rules for effective strategic planning

I just started strategic planning with a new client.

As I do at the start of working with any group, I spoke with the strategic planning committee about how we could best work together. I shared the rules for behavior that I find essential for successful strategic planning. After we discussed each rule and how it would work, the team added a few of their own. Then the planning team adopted the ground rules as a guide for their own deliberations.

I thought I’d share the rules I use with you. I’d love to hear what works in your groups.


Gayle’s Ground Rules for Effective Strategic Planning

In order to make our work together effective and meaningful, we agree to:

  1. Keep a razor-sharp focus on articulating a vision of the impact we wish to have on our community.
  2. Remember the answer to “how” is “yes.” * (GG: No matter how amazing the plan, it can’t be successful without your strong commitment)
  3. Act in good faith. Assume good faith on the part of others.
  4. Make decisions by  ____________________. (GG: Use a decision-making rule that generates the level of commitment needed. Will majority vote be enough? A supermajority? Consensus? At what level of support?).
  5. Share responsibility for creating a plan that matters and makes a difference for our community.
  6. Use evidence and confirmed data to guide our decisions.
  7. Regularly seek out ideas from our key stakeholders.
  8. Keep critical constituents (e.g. board, staff) informed of the status of our deliberations.
  9. Share all information that we may possess that is important and relevant to our discussions, even if that information may be difficult to hear.
  10. Make decisions in the best interest of our community and our organization, not our personal interests.
  11. Keep discussions confidential until authorized otherwise by our committee.
  12. Discuss un-discussable issues.
  13. Remain respectful of others and their perceptions.
  14. Focus on interests, not positions. Explain the reasoning behind our statements, questions and actions when they are not obvious to others.
  15. Keep focused on the topics being discussed.
  16. Attend meetings – prepared and on time.
  17. Complete our assignments.
  18. Put away our “e-gadgets” during discussions, unless the team requests otherwise.
  19. _____(GG: what else do you need?)__________________________________.

*From Peter Block, The Answer to How is Yes.

A number of the ground rules I use originated from the expert facilitator Roger Schwartz. His book, The Skilled Facilitator, is a classic for your book shelf. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

3 responses to Ground rules for effective strategic planning

  1. Lori L. Jacobwith

    Great list, Gayle. I’d say this list could be used for annual fundraising planning as well to ensure the plan has impact and is aligned with the vision and purpose of the organization…and isn’t just a long list of events that will overwhelm and under-deliver.

  2. Sandy Rees

    Love it Gayle! Anytime an organization engages in planning, establishing grouns rules gets everyone started on equal footing.

    Sandy Rees

  3. Sherry Truhlar

    Gayle, wonderful list. It really could apply to almost all planning an organization does. What I like most is the way it clearly covers the expectations of participants. Too often we move through a large project/event and at some point, staff or a volunteers says, “oh, I didn’t know I was suppose to do that”. I don’t mean the small stuff, I mean they didn’t know they were being asked to step up to the plate. Your list lets them know right up front -they are in the game.

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