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A Brief Description of the ICA Strategic Planning Process

The ICA Strategic Planning method is a process that assists, in a short time (two full days), a group of up to 30 to focus its vision and define and develop a manageable number of key strategies for reaching that vision.

This method assists an organization to enhance its effectiveness by:

  1. Developing a common vision for the future with strategies, solutions, and action plans to achieve that vision
  2. Developing greater commitment and ability to implement decisions and strategies
  3. Producing more innovation -- a larger portfolio of ideas
  4. Providing a common framework for decision making, communication, planning, and problem solving
  5. Encouraging initiative and responsibility1

The outline of the planning process is as follows:

Each step of the process takes approximately a 1/2 a day workshop, so the full process can be completed in two full days of work. The first three workshops consist of brainstorming around a focus question, organizing the ideas around certain criteria, naming the underlying themes of the organized data, and reflecting on the work done. Each workshop has both a rational objective and an experiential objective. How people feel about the work they do is as important as the results of the work itself. Developing commitment as well as plans is essential to the process. As someone once said, a B plan well implemented is better than and A+ plan poorly implemented.

Below are the rational and experiential objectives for the first three workshops and examples of the possible focus questions and the criteria of organizing the data.

Workshop Rational Objective Experiential Objective Focus Question Organizing Principle
Vision Workshop Identify groups hopes and dreams To feel a common vision of the future What do we want to see in place in the next five year Similar Accomplishments
Contradiction Workshop Identify Obstacles to our vision To feel we have identified the real issues What is blocking us moving toward our vision? Common root causes to the obstacles
Strategic Directions Workshop Identify what we need to DO this year Excitement at next, practical possibilities What will unblock us so we can move toward our vision Actions with similar intent

The fourth workshop focuses on choosing projects or events than can be completed in the next year scheduled by quarter and then developing a detailed action plan for activities for the first quarter. The rational objective for this workshop is to design implementation steps; the experiential objective for this workshop is to feel part of a winning team.

The key rational outputs of this process are a clear and common vision for the future and long term and short term plans to achieve that vision. Moreover, the process ensures participation by everyone and develops a strong team by ensuring people have the chance to explain their thinking and to be heard while they do so.

What I have described above is the core of the planning process. However, other informational gathering activities can be done before hand to prepare for this work. Some of those preparatory workshops could be SWOT, the Wall of Wonder (a timeline of the history and future of the organization or project), and Customer and Competitor Analysis, or other forms of organizational or project analysis.

Planning for this type of Planning event is not too difficult. The key issues are to ensure that the outputs of this process meet the needs of the organization, develop the appropriate focus question, and invite the correct participants.

ICA is the Institute for Cultural Affairs and has been developing this process for over 20 years. Their strategic planning process has been used by rural communities and NGOs to business associations such as the Young Presidents to large business such as Texaco and Citibank. For more information, please contact Frank Page at the address above.

NGO Management Home Page Photography Home Page Family and Friends Home Page NGO & Management Web Sites Management Book Store Frank C. Page, 1998