When Kim Coontz first asked me to lead a workshop on strategic planning at the California Cooperative Conference I was a little surprised; I usually teach meeting facilitation, communication skills, or conflict resolution, so it seemed outside my area of expertise. She pointed out that as a facilitator, I am frequently hired to help with meetings that include strategic planning – so I suppose I know more about the subject than I’d realized!
So here is the Four-Step Weaver Model of How Strategic Planning Is Like Going On Vacation:
Stage One: The Dream: “Let’s take a trip!”
When you dream about taking a vacation, you imagine yourself in different scenarios – why do you go on vacation and what do you like to do when you go? This first step of strategic planning similarly focuses on the “why” of your organization’s journey. Review your mission/vision statement and dream about where you’d like to be in a year or two. If you fulfilled your mission perfectly, what could it look like?
Stage Two: The Destination: “We’ll arrive in Copenhagen on July 15.”
In order to actually take a trip you must choose a final destination and arrival date; this step focuses on the “what” and “when” of the journey. It’s time to turn those dreams into measurable objectives: What will you accomplish? How many or how much? When will you get there?
Stage Three: The Itinerary: “We’re flying on Airline X and staying at Hotel Y.”
Now that we know where we’re going, we need to focus on how we’re going to get there: transportation, hotel reservations, etc. What actions are necessary to achieve the objectives identified in Step 1? Break each objective down into bite-size steps. Use a large time-line and sticky notes to sequence tasks. Don’t forget to include WHO will be responsible for each item!
Stage Four: The Journal: “Here’s a photo of where we actually ended up!”
Off we go on this grand adventure! Sometimes things don’t go according to the plan; we may choose to vary from the original itinerary or outside forces may force us to make changes. Just as we document our travels with photos, journals, and scrapbooks, keep a record of your progress against your strategic plans. This just might be the most important step of all!

Now that I’ve finished it, I realize that it is not unlike the presentation I gave to my kayaking club about the Baja expedition I organized last year!