Strategic Visioning: Optimizing a Group’s Embedded WisdomMar 15, 2023
Strategic Visioning combines hindsight drawn from visually facilitated strategic thinking sessions with foresight arising from aspirational, visionary exchange and dialogue. This process is grounded in the present through alignment on priorities and action plans.
Visual templates used in this process provide light structures for deep engagement. In-person meetings become information theaters. Online sessions simulate this with a progression of perspectives in whiteboard programs. Both approaches visualize information in a format that supports the kind of rich dialogue from which agreements and new insights arise.
When you want your team or organization to think comprehensively about your organization’s future and grapple thoughtfully with planning choices, Strategic Visioning (SV) is a tested approach you can count on.
Graphic Templates Support Large Group Process
The hallmark of SV is the pre-drawn graphic templates that bring consistency to visual practice. This is especially helpful with large groups. When breakout groups work with the same format, it empowers cross-group comparison of the content. When groups draw their own charts from scratch, a great deal of visual “noise” is reflected in the different drawing capabilities that aren’t necessarily relevant to the content being explored. Working with pre-drawn graphic templates enables organizations to save the time it would take to create them.
Managing the Four Flows
You might notice the small graphic symbols on the far left of the Model. These represent the four flows you need to manage and the different kinds of intelligence that you need to tap in your organization.
The light burst at the top points toward top-line intentions and the need to involve your intuitive thinkers. The small yin/yang-like symbol represents the feeling body of the organization, the energetic, experiential aspects of the culture. HR and facilitators focus on these aspects. The small diamond represents the technical, thinking part of the organization. The cube represents the operational, bottom-line, hands-on-the-work aspects.
These four levels are represented as symbols because different organizations have many different words for these distinctions. The point is to integrate all of these levels in a process that optimizes the chance of everyone coming to key insights and seeing key relationships.
Integrate Intuition, Feeling, Thinking and Sensing
The figure-eight pattern integrates top-line and bottom-line thinking. When the SV process was developing, Meryem LeSaget, a Grove associate in Paris, pointed out that the real value of the large-scale graphic history-telling was the way it tapped the group’s intuition and feelings. Although the exercise can be led in an analytic way, most of the time it releases storytelling and a celebration of community.
On the other hand, working in the matrix of the SPOT template tends to ground everyone’s attention on the specific, concrete problems faced in the operational part of the organization. Asking everyone to imagine the future as if the organization were on the cover of an important magazine slips attention back to the future and a more intuitive modality, while grounding things in the Five Bold Steps requires prioritization and agreement—a much more constrained and operational mode again. This cycle of work and the changes in point-of-view on each template assures that you optimize the chance of the full spectrum of the group’s embedded wisdom to emerge.
Put Templates Together in an Integrated Planning Process
The Grove’s Strategic Visioning™ (SV) process is an example of how to integrate templates into a full process. It evolved during the booming 1990s when organizations were expanding rapidly and many were jumping into re-engineering to adapt to new technologies. The core intention was to overcome the analytic bias of traditional strategic planning, which emphasizes hindsight by looking at historical data.
The Strategic Visioning Model™ (Model) is itself a kind of template, though designed for guiding thinking, not for recording group content. The figure-eight image in the Model graphic suggests the need to integrate hindsight and foresight into insight in action, and to go through repeated cycles at different levels of the organization to get full understanding and buy-in. You can download a four-page overview of the model here.
The primary aim of such a process is to develop strategic, visionary thinking capability in the general system through regular rounds of visual planning. The “plan” and related graphic templates are devices to drive the development of this strategic-thinking capability.
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This article was adapted from the book, Visual Leaders: New Tools for Visioning, Management & Organization Change by David Sibbet (Wiley, 2012).
If you’d like to learn more about using our templates and integrating them into your own strategic process, register for our course, Strategic Visioning.
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