Last week I wrote a post on creating a strategic thinking discipline to accommodate the ever-changing environments we all live and work in today: Is Your Strategic Thinking Multifaceted or Unfocused? In this post, I presented three tips to create a focused and flexible strategic plan. The first of these tips is carefully prioritize and order your objectives so they build on one another and create a sustainable implementation focus. In this post, I will share with you a proven method to reach consensus on your priorities.
Big Rocks then Little Rocks
Times of high change are always disruptive. Staying on track even when disruption occurs is a perennial goal for strategic leadership. This requires confidence that you are focusing on the right things in the right order. This confidence comes from planning discussions that build a shared understanding of why you have decided on one priority over others.
Over the many years of leading strategic planning, we have hit some highly turbulent times (the dot.com bust, the 2008 recession) and we have seen our clients not only survive but thrive through the chaos. One of the reasons for this strategic focus is the way in which we facilitate prioritizing and ordering their goals and objectives. This approach is best described by the Steven Covey quote - “If the big rocks don’t go in first, they are not going to fit later.”
In planning discussions, there are often a number of new as well as legacy priorities discussed. At times focusing on new ideas makes some participants fear that attention is being shifted away from historical priorities in favor of new and possibly more exciting priorities. We find this is seldom the case. However, when this fear is left unchecked, it shuts down creativity possibly ending important strategic thinking before it starts. To balance pragmatism and creativity in your strategy development, we recommend you use the Big Rocks First Exercise to brainstorm, sort, rank and order your strategic thinking. This exercise will allow you to bring new thinking into your discussions and properly weight it against other possibly more critical priorities and create a common understanding of the most important priorities that you must always focus on first, before other less critical or newer objectives.
In practical terms, this clarity means that everyone knows what is most important to protect and invest in first during turbulent times. This clarity provides greater confidence in your decisions and fosters higher levels of productivity even in a chaotic environment.
Download your Big Rocks/Little Rocks Exercise Kit to use with your team at your next strategic planning meeting.