We help organizations develop a vision for where they want to go, a plan for getting there, and an approach to engage the entire organization.
Trailhead uses a novel approach to strategic planning that combines traditional strategic management practices with design thinking methodology, in a process we term “Strategy by Design”.
Our approach helps organizations move past incremental thinking that is entrenched in the status quo and unlocks the creative capacity of the organization. Doing so helps the organization realize a distinctive and sustainable position while getting everyone energized and involved.
Goal: To outline the strategic planning process as a project…it has a beginning, middle, and an end. Defining it as a project forces us to articulate goals and objectives at the outset. Is this a one year plan, a three year, or longer? Is it a corporate-wide strategy or a functional one that needs to link to an organizational one? These questions and much more are answered in this first step of our process. Finally, establishing it as a project enables us to develop key milestones, checkpoints, and deadlines to ensure the project moves forward with vitality and energy.
Key Deliverables: A Strategic Design Brief
Goal: In the discovery phase we leverage a robust set of tools (quantitative and qualitative) to analyze the “AS-IS” state of the organization, both internally and externally. The key here is to move past the low hanging fruit and develop novel insights that may not be well understood. This is where external partners…and highly trained ones at that (our analysts generally have Ph.D.’s and are highly trained researchers)…create immense value for our clients. Through fresh eyes and deep analytic skills, we are able to capture and share insights that will move your organization forward.
Key Deliverables: A Discovery Presentation and Report
Goal: We have to do something with all of the data captured during discovery. In the isolate phase, we aggregate our findings across key dimensions. We then synthesize into key “Opportunity and Challenge” statements and rank order based on key criteria such as opportunity, viability, and feasibility. We leave the isolate phase with 5-10 key opportunities for improvement and transformation.
Key Deliverables: An Aggregation Framework and Ranked List of Opportunities and Challenges
Goal: In the design phase we bring in our creative team to lead the organization through design thinking workshops to help co-create solutions to opportunity and challenge statements. We tap into the collective genius of the organization and in doing so accomplish two core objectives. First, employee engagement increases as individuals feel as though they are playing a vital role in shaping the organization's strategy, especially if elements of such solutions are entered into practice. Second, through our design thinking workshops the organization develops a shared language, process, and culture for driving innovation and growth across the organization. This has long lasting effects.
Key Deliverables: A Working Draft of Strategic Plan for Feedback and Iteration
Goal: After many iterations, a strategic plan consisting of priorities, initiatives, measures, incentives, responsibilities, etc. is developed and professionally polished through compelling narratives and visual storytelling. The final plan needs to energize and compel the organization to act collectively towards the new vision and provide a framework to evaluate performance. Complementing the strategic plan will be an organizational and financial plan to help the organization realize their new position.
Key Deliverables: A Final Strategic and Operating Plan
Transforming Business Education - A Case Study
Developing a distinctive position through clarity of vision and well aligned strategic priorities.
Large business school in the southeastern United States.
This college had gone through a two-year data collection exercise as part of a strategic planning initiative. They developed an initial draft of their strategic plan and were left with vision, mission, and priority statements that lacked clarity, focus, and would do little to shape collective action towards a distinctive position within their industry.
We first reanalyzed the data and identified issues and opportunities for innovation. We then listened to leadership to understand and discern their strategic vision for the college. We also added to the data collection by exploring and discovering regional idiosyncrasies that could help identify a unique position for this institution. Our analysis shaped the design of a new strategic vision and mission that was clear and actionable. Furthermore, we developed priorities, initiatives, and measures that aligned to the new vision and that would help the organization move forward with focus and clarity. The plan was developed through a process of co-creation where tight iterative cycles were used to sharpen the plan and ensure the final outcome was aligned to the client’s requests.
The plan passed in an overwhelming way by faculty vote and has been alluded to as
“One of the best strategic plans seen by a college” by visiting faculty.