How to Make Strategic Planning an Enjoyable Experience

Making strategic planning an enjoyable experience has been a constant challenge for me

When strategic planning works, I feel like I have my ideal job.

You may have felt the same after a workshop when:

  • Participants tell you how much they enjoyed their workshop
  • You’re still feeling chuffed about how well a workshop went 24 hours later
  • You get to work with passionate people who see a real future in what they’re doing

An ‘it all clicked’ experience

This week I was up at Carnarvon running a strategic planning workshop for a group of young pastoralists with a passion for natural resource management.

The Gascoyne Catchments Group has been operating for 13 years and were ready to refresh their strategic plan and their approach

The planning session was intended to help them get back on track.

I’m going to backcast a bit here and take you to the responses at the end of the workshop, at the pub over dinner and in the Chairman’s 4WD on the way to Carnarvon airport.

  • “That was really good, there was such a great energy and everyone was really clear on what we wanted to do.”
  • “That was so good, normally I sit in these workshops, nobody agrees on anything, the vision is just bullshit and we have to come back and do the whole f*cking thing again.”
  • “We were driving in and talking about today. We reckoned we’d have to do a SWOT and go through the same old stuff. Thank God you didn’t do that to us!”

I’m not saying for a moment that I’m the wizard here, I just want to share the value of good process, participation and encouragement to keep going to get things right.

Getting the process right

When participants time is tight, I keep the strategic planning process down to four hours max.

And because I’m on a workshop, caffeine and croissant-induced high, I’m providing you with the workshop template so you can see how to run this process yourself.

I follow the ‘What, So what, Now what framework, mapped out by Canadian engagement specialist, Dorothy Strachan.

  • What = What are the key facts, trends or relevant data we need to know?
  • So What = What does this mean for us, what might be the impacts?
  • Now What = What do we need to do about this?

For this component I used Wave Analysis It’s a great process to help groups to consider their current and future operating environment. It’s also a refreshing change from the boring-schmoring, soul-destroying SWOT analysis!

Wave analysis for strategic planning




Participant feedback

“I loved the metaphor for the wave. Being a visual learner, it helped me to see the process and really connect with it. I’m so glad you didn’t do the SWOT!”

Key insights

The wave analysis helped the group to move from the ‘What’ to the ‘So what’ components of the process.

The wave also set the group up to develop their vision and mission as there was greater clarity and context regarding where they needed to position themselves for them upcoming five years.

It also helped them to get excited about their future as it highlighted a number of areas that they could influence if they focused their efforts on them (i.e. in the ‘Now what’ action planning phase).

Next steps

In your next instalments, you’ll get a further ‘how to’ on the vision, mission and action planning components of the process.

In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or need a hand in hosting, designing or running your own workshops.


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Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

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