Three Ways to Refresh Your Strategy for the New Year

strategic visioning Jan 12, 2018

Author: Laurie Durnell 


What can you do to get your team in sync for 2018? When people get lost in the details of week-to-week implementation, it is easy for them to get disconnected from the big-picture strategy. Early in the new year is a natural time to reconnect, review, and renew. Here are three ways to focus your organization or team and develop strategic insight for the coming months.


Option One: A “Bridge to the New Year” Session

Time Involved: 2–3 hours

Bring the new year into focus with a visual planning template (see sample above and instructions for drawing below.) Use this process when you want to facilitate a single focused session to envision the year ahead and get everyone aligned on action.

This approach is better suited for a team or a project than for a whole organization. It is particularly useful when the scope of your endeavor is not overly complex. Although it does not allow for a deep dive into strategy, it can put the focus on the most important priorities to move forward.


How to Draw a Template: For a co-located team, draw on a whiteboard or big paper. For a remote team, sketch the template and fill it in using a tablet. Start by drawing a bridge image in the middle to signify the transition to the new year. Designate spaces on the left to harvest High Points and Low Points from the past year. Include a place to record Aspirations for 2018 on the right, and a place for anticipated 2018 Challenges under the bridge. Make a space above the bridge, in between Aspirations and Challenges, to note the major Actions—the high-level goals—that the organization will focus on in the coming year.


How to Use the Template:

1. Fill in the team’s Purpose, its ultimate reason for being. This may already exist from work that your group completed previously.

2. Lead a go-around session in which everyone shares a High Point and a Low Point from the past year. Record these on the template.

3. Jump over to Aspirations. Imagine what success looks like by the end of 2018. What results will the team have achieved? What does that success feel like?

4. Use sticky notes to brainstorm the Actions the team will need to take to achieve its aspirations. These can be major milestones, goals or initiatives. If you can, organize the sticky notes in rough time order.

5. Discuss the Resources you will need. These could include skills, stakeholder buy-in, financial support, people, and so forth.

6. Imagine the Challenges that you may face as you work to accomplish your intended Actions.

7. Step back and review the entire template, with special focus on Aspirations and Actions.

8. Use a flip chart to record next steps, noting each step’s responsible person and timeframe for completion.

9. Take a photograph of the template and the next steps and send them around to everyone. For co-located groups, post the template someplace visible as a reminder of your aspirations. For blended or remote groups, post the files online as shared documents.

10. Additional option: After the group has engaged with the bridge template and filled in the content, build momentum for follow-through. After determining the responsible person for each of the major goal areas, ask each goal owner to complete a Graphic Gameplan Graphic Guide® in order to clarify steps for moving forward. This follow-up step gives additional legs to the planning process beyond “Let’s get together for a meeting and then we’re done.”


Option Two: A Strategic Visioning Process

Time Involved: 2 days or more

To support a more in-depth exploration, initiate a facilitated Strategic Visioning™ Process to clarify goals, reconfigure strategy, and bring fresh energy to your organization’s efforts. Use this longer planning process when you need a more revolutionary rather than evolutionary response to changing conditions such as:

• shifts in customers, competitors, or technology
• organization change, such as a merger, reorganization, or leadership transition
• increased financial constraints or financial success
• internal competing factions that need dialogue to bring their efforts together

Strategic Visioning is particularly useful when you see significant opportunities and you need a decision-making and alignment process to prioritize effort in the organization around one set of opportunities or the other.


Option Three: A Quick Alignment Activity

Time Involved: 1–1.5 hours

Even if your time window for meeting as a group is quite limited, you can still gather team members for a meeting that gets everybody aligned and in sync. Department by department, or person by person, simply have everyone share what they are looking forward to in the coming year. Communicating excitement about the year ahead encourages a sense of optimism, and it informs people about what other team members are doing. If your team is feeling bored or has lost sight of its larger purpose, this simple overview of the coming year can be a powerful exercise to renew everyone’s commitment to the larger community of effort.

Use this time-efficient approach when you want to continue the current course, and your desired outcome for the meeting is to keep momentum going and refresh people’s connection to vision and strategy. In the Drexler-Sibbet Team Performance Model®, this is a Stage Seven activity. It’s about renewal and maintaining motivation. When everyone is working heads-down on their responsibilities, it is especially important to reconnect people to the goals and vision, as well as to each other.


A Great Investment

If you can, schedule a group lunch after the looking-back-and-looking-forward session. This is an opportunity to deepen connections, especially for team members who work remotely. And are there people to celebrate? There is such a lack of acknowledgment of the good work that people do in the world these days.

Whatever process you use for your review and looking-forward activity, use the new year window to bring people together. The time that you take to pause, reflect, celebrate, and develop insights for the coming year is an investment that will pay dividends going forward.



The “Bridge to 2018” image was created by The Grove’s Malgosia Kostecka.

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