The process of formulating their strategy is one of the most important, challenging and invigorating projects an organization ever undertakes. It is the organization’s opportunity to seriously reflect on the evolving environment surrounding it, and the impact it wants to make in that environment. The environment is full of contradictions, incredible opportunities, and daunting threats. But the organization that carefully considers those contradictions, energetically envisions the future it truly wants for itself, and courageously makes difficult decisions about how to realize that future is a strategically hardy organization, ready, willing and able to succeed today and tomorrow.

Being strategically hardy isn’t easy. It requires some real effort and exercise. I’ve honestly lost count of the number of organizations we’ve worked with on strategic formulation. But each one realized & fully engaged in a process that engaged as many people as possible, & that acknowledged – up front – that not everyone was going to be happy with the strategies selected, but that everyone would buy in to the process by which those strategies were selected.  That’s what strategic planning is. We call it strategic planning, but it really is about formulating strategy……it really is about deciding & forming & shaping & scaffolding what the organization is going to do over the coming months & years to make a difference — to make an impact — to be successful for its community, its students, its faculty, its staff, its stakeholders.

The strategic muscles an organization needs to build are its decision-making, discernment, determination & delight. I did it! The 4 “D’s” of strategic hardiness. Jane will be laughing. I didn’t plan it, Jane, honest. Why these 4 “D’s”?

Decision-making: before looking around the environment or talking with stakeholders, an organization needs to design its floor routine — its decision criteria. What criteria must the strategic directions and goals meet? Pick these early in the process and stick to the routine – or to the criteria – or you will get confused. And we all know that confusion just leads to chaos when it comes to adults making decisions.

Discernment:making sense of the many forces at play in the environment — judging what’s important, what’s not & which bar bells really need to be used to build this strengths (ok, so maybe I’m taking the exercise analogy too far — but discerning & judgment are so critical, so don’t forget it, ok?)

Determination: to complete the strategic planning, take it through to identifying how you’ll measure your success at realizing the strategies & ideal future, and implementing. Yes! Implementing! That IS what strategy is all about. It isn’t about meetings or word-smithing. It is about being determined & flexible enough to see it through to reality.

Delight: in the process — in bringing people together to share their knowledge of the environment, their visions, their hopes, dreams, their perspectives, their opinions. Life is too short. How can you have fun implementing the plan if it wasn’t fun doing all that muscle building, deciding & discerning? Yes, energy sometimes comes from fear, but it is much more enduring when the energy is ignited by inspiration, laughter & a true desire to reach that vision.