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Strategic Planning: A No Paper Method 

by Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE

The approach of fall and the new school year coincides with strategic planning efforts for many organizations.  When it comes to strategic planning, however, most executives and business planners concede that many "Strategic Plans" end up gathering dust.  

Are you contemplating a strategic plan for YOUR team, your practice, your family, or even your own career?  If so, consider the "No Paper Method" I have created and used for some clients.  It is an approach to simplify and focus your planning process and avoid the risk of creating an obsolete "report" that may become irrelevant to the organization or to YOU.

1)  Replace the strategic planning process with a STRATEGIC THINKING  process.  

Set aside a day or two with your team (or family, if this is a personal strategic plan) and structure your dialogue around topics that will stimulate thinking, question the status quo, and reinforce the strengths each team member brings to the table. Don't worry about creating "the plan."  

The dialogue could invite each person to anonymously respond to this question:  "What could we do differently (good) that would be shocking, maybe undoable, crazy ---but an amazing kick in the pants!"

Your structured dialogue could also include team development "segments," which are kicked off with an "opening line." For example, each person spends time thinking about how they would complete the statement,   "I do my best work when . . . "   

Here is another opening line: "When I am successful in my work, the circumstances that supported me were . . ."

2) Describe what the end vision will look like---without using words, or sentences.  

Here is where you get out of your head!    Rather than setting "goals" that sound like a financial report, you create pictures, collages, sculptures, clay models, paper cutouts---anything that is descriptive or demonstrative, but not "measurable" in the usual sense.  The visual creation should "show and tell" how and where you want to be in 3 or 5 or 15 years.  

For example, if you are doing a family strategic plan, you might create a collage of photos showing travel to those places you want to go, people you want to meet or visit, experiences you want to have.  If you are creating a corporate or practice strategic plan, you might include a photo of patients lining up outside your office, or clay models of you, "queen of the mountain," delivering a new service.  

ONE RULE: the pictures must also depict the feelings you want to feel in the vision.  Do you want to be home by 6 everyday?  Then include a drawing of a clock with that time on it, with you singing as you walk in the door!

Why the No Paper Method Works

Traditionally, strategic planning is a mechanism for creating a map for getting from point A to point B. Straightforward enough, except for two little problems:  1) Point "B" gets very shifty when we try to pin it down to words and numbers, and  2) Organizations and teams are very spotty when it comes to the EMOTIONAL COMMITMENT required to travel from A to B.  

The No Paper Method Strategic Planning process described above is a way to engage people at the GUT level.  The creative process helps people articulate and memorialize WHAT THE VISION REPRESENTS and how they will FEEL when they get there. Your creation will always be that reference. There are no "numbers" that might cause you to shelve it when they become irrelevant a few months down the road. Furthermore, the method provides individual team members the opportunity to communicate to each other what their personal "success factors" are for making the journey. 

The secret to the No Paper Method is that it creates a very strong PULL! Having a vision PULL you is a lot easier than you "pushing" others or yourself toward it.

So what about the "tactics" with this approach? Do you ignore these? Tactics are generally not the problem, particularly not with smart people!  Go ahead and outline a one or two year tactical plan, but keep it to one page! And be sure to keep your Strategic "visual creation" highly visible!


If you are contemplating a strategic planning process, contact me to see how you can incorporate my No Paper Method to create a "pull" in your organization.

Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE is an executive coach and business consultant.  She is president of The Gaillour Group and director  of Creative Strategies in Physician Leadership.  Dr. Gaillour is a professional speaker on healthcare leadership, technology and cultural change.  

She can be reached at (888) 562-7289 or francine@physicianleadership.com


Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE
15600 NE 8th Street, Suite B1-173
Bellevue, WA  98008
(206) 686-4205

Francine R. Gaillour, MD   2006 Ki Health, Inc.