What you need to know about strategic planning at a board level

Description

Strategy is about having a clear focus on the future you are trying to create, being aware of different future possibilities, understanding the current environment, analysing what this means to your organisation, and then choosing what needs to be done based on this analysis, in advance of needing to act.

Learn how to undertake the strategic development and planning process and to come away with:

  • A clear focus on the future you want (Vision and Purpose)
  • Being aware of different future possibilities (Scenarios)
  • Understanding the implications of the current environment (SWOR Analysis)
  • Choosing the key things that need to be in place now and over time to address the future possibilities
  • Monitoring and changing when required (Action planning and monitoring)

Listen to the podcast

Webinar Transcript

Today, let me introduce you to our speakers for today's webinar. Brett Herkt is our co-founder and CEO here at BoardPro. Brett's a serial entrepreneur, having built several high growth businesses over the last 20 years, so good afternoon to you, Brett.

BRETT HERKT: Kia ora. Thanks, Sean. And Kia ora to everyone. Fabulous to see so many of you are on.

SEAN MCDONALD: Steven Bowman is managing director of Conscious Governance and brings a great depth of experience with board reviews and strategic planning. And Steven has a wealth of executive governance experience and has written over 14 books on governance and strategy. Good afternoon to you, Steven.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Oh, thanks very much, Sean. And it's good to see that so many people are now much more not only interested in governance but seeing that it's one of the greatest gifts and tools we've got to actually help create the future for us and everyone around us. So look forward to this discussion.

SEAN MCDONALD: Fabulous. And Giselle McLauhlan is a governance specialist with a keen eye on the strategic horizon as well as on the ground just ahead. Giselle is all about down to earth governance and business advice and thrives on building sustainable businesses alongside healthy leaders and lives. Kia ora to you, Giselle.

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: Well, Sean, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. Greetings from Wanaka in the South of New Zealand, and very pleased to be here. Thanks BoardPro for the opportunity.

SEAN MCDONALD: Fabulous. And last but by no means least, we have Graeme Nahkies who co-founded Australasia's first specialist governance consultancy. Since then BoardWorks has worked with over 600 clients across all of our sectors. And he keeps BoardWorks at the forefront of contemporary practice. Good afternoon, Graeme.

GRAEME NAHKIES: Thanks for the welcome. Kia ora, everybody.

SEAN MCDONALD: So our webinar series is centered around what we call the 3 by 5 Governance Playbook. And Brett, as creator and author of the playbook, would you like to explain why you created the playbook and what value it delivers?

BRETT HERKT: Yeah, sure. So because BoardPro is software business focuses on small medium enterprise, and not for profit, there's a fear group of those customers who governance is relatively new for them, or still on a learning journey.

So we've really created a resource like this just to allow the fundamentals to be super apparent and easy to implement.

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: And look, Brett, I'll just chip in there. I want to really say thanks to BroadPro and yourself for developing that tool. I think even experienced directors really need a reminder of the essence, or the essentials, of governance. So good for you.

BRETT HERKT: Brilliant. And you can see here on the next slide Sean has gone to, this gives you an idea of some of the aspects in there. And you can see it ranges from as complex as developing strategic direction at the board level, which Steven will go through today and do a great job, through to running a board meeting cycle. So that gives you a flavor of the type of things in that little framework we've developed. Is there anything you'd add to that, Steven?

STEVEN BOWMAN: I think having a framework is actually quite useful because what it enables everyone to do, particularly directors, is to really just tick off are we doing these things. And it's a great one, particularly for new directors to go through and say, well these are the sorts of things I'm going to expect from the board, here are the sorts of questions I can start asking, and here's how I can add value from day one. So I think it's really useful to actually reflect on some of these things as a director.

BRETT HERKT: OK. And then finally, there I wondered rather than talking more, Graeme, you had some interesting feedback in terms of some of the governance situations you see as you've helped me in fact, start to develop this.

GRAEME NAHKIES: Yeah, I think that some form of almost checklist is incredibly valuable, particularly for those who are new in their chair roles, for example, just to have some sort of framework for thinking about what are the tasks that they need to get done.

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: Just wanted to pick up on that word you had there, Brett, as well, mandate. The strategic mandate to the CEO, or the M.D., or general manager, whoever is managing the business. I think often in boardrooms, they can forget they have given the leader, the day-to-day leader of the business, a mandate and permission to get on with the strategy can be lost in the weeds sometimes.

BRETT HERKT: Yeah, look I agree, Giselle. I'm sure they'd be a rich topic we can get to as we go through Steven's material.

SEAN MCDONALD: So over to you.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Let's get started. OK, I'll give you a heads up first. This is one of my favorite topics. So I'm going to have to just calm down a little bit as we go through this because what people, what I find that most boards do not get is that strategy isn't just an exercise. Strategy is about creating the future. And one of the main reasons that organizations exist is to actually make a difference. If you're in the corporate field, then typically you'll have revenue coming in from all sorts of different areas. In for purpose field, you'll be creating an even greater difference and also having revenue coming in.

But what is this future that we actually want to create and what difference do we want to make? So strategy is all about how you create your future without having a fixed point of view about what it should be but being willing to actually look to see what the possible futures are and then continually move towards that with quite a few detours along the way. Graeme, what's your view on strategy?

GRAEME NAHKIES: Well, firstly you can't change anything which not still in front of you. So if anything's happened, that's too late the horse has bolted. So all the time I think we're trying to get boards to focus on what they can still influence. And this idea of designing the future I think it's a very good way to approach that.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yeah, Giselle.

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: Yeah, I wanted to pick up on this idea of the future possibilities and to acknowledge that not all directors actually find that imagining the future. Literally, I'm getting creative about it, actually very easy. So some directors are strong on strategy and others struggle. And I do think that's something we need to take account of when we're doing strategic work.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yeah and there's a comment that Jane-- Hi, Jane, saying it sounds like strategic foresight. That's part of this whole process. I mean one of my favorite sayings that I often talk about is that give me a board of directors who are strategic with no strategic plan over a board where none of them are strategic and they've got this bloody thing called a plan which they don't look at anyway.

But I would rather have the individuals being strategic and then the strategic plan becomes a tool, rather than the strategic plan becoming the answer which then either is followed to the letter never to be changed because after all it's strategic and no one on the board is actually being strategic. They're not asking questions they're not looking towards the future, as Jane said, the strategic foresight. And as we go through this we'll talk about all sorts of different ways where you can meld both the strategic plan and also as directors individually being strategic as well.

So the first thing I wanted to cover with everyone here is what do we mean by strategic planning because every organization typically has a strategic plan. And I'll say right up front, 80% of them are useless. And I say that because I would see probably 2000 different strategic plans a year, and there's literally over 80% of them are absolutely useless because they're wish lists, or you can go into all sorts of reasons why, but they're not actually adding value to the board and the board aren't utilizing them in the way that they can be.

So five key aspects, no matter what sort of strategic planning you go through, no matter who you use to do it, and we'll talk about all that later. You've got to have a clear focus on the future that you want. Now, this clear focus is your vision statement. It is your purpose statement. That's the focus, not exactly what it should look like but here's where we're going to, here's a difference that we want to make.

The second key element is acknowledging there is no one future. If you think you know what the future is going to be you're going to be terribly, terribly disappointed, not only that, but surprised. So understanding there's multiple futures out there and for every choice that we make as a board, we are actually creating the future. So it's malleable, it continues on.

Also understanding what's currently going on. So we need to understand what's going on in our current environment, what's happening out there. What does it mean to us? What do we need to do about it? Not just listening to reports from staff. So that we're actually as a board getting involved in actively monitoring what's happening out there, both now and into the future, and having these strategic conversations around what could that mean to us. And what do we potentially need to put in place to leverage that. And then--

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: So Steven--

STEVEN BOWMAN: Sorry, Giselle.

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: --just picking up on that point with the implications of the current environment, how do you go about getting all of that information? How far should the board be looking at what the environment is that the business is operating and close to home, global?

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yes, yes, and yes. I mean, my view on this, I know Graeme has got some strong views on this too, my view on this is that if you don't have directors who are avid readers and are intensely curious, you haven't got the right directors. So what we want are people who are willing to look outside what they currently know and continually keep themselves informed.

A really good example of that is the whole ESG conversation going on environmental, social, and governance, a lot of people still think it's a load of poppycock. Really good directors are starting to read what's coming out about it and saying, well, what does that mean for us. What are the implications for us that we need to be aware of. What does environmental mean to us because it's going to be different to other organizations, and what do we need to be aware of now so we position ourselves for whatever comes down the future. Graeme?

GRAEME NAHKIES: It might be useful to plan into every board meeting what I call a radar screen discussion, which is an attempt to try and pull some of that intelligence that hopefully people have been gathering up between board meetings and trying to make sense of it.

STEVEN BOWMAN: And that trying to make sense of it is what otherwise you would call a strategic conversation. We naturally need to have these conversations and look at what these things are. The other thing we can do too is one of the great techniques that I found very useful is every two or three times a year bring in one of your senior executives, or someone who's in charge of a particular element of the organization, and ask them to come in and have a 15 or 20 minute conversation with the board about what they see as the top strategic issues in the next 10 years in their area of responsibility.

And therefore what the implications might be if these things were to occur. And then the board can have a conversation about well is our strategic plan robust enough to be able to deal with some of the potential whispers of the future that we could potentially be looking at. But that's looking at it from sort of an operational strategic viewpoint.

And then the other thing is you can bring key stakeholders in to. I mean, if you're not doing that, it's crazy. Every six months or so bringing a key stakeholder and ask from their view of what's the strategic environment in 10 years, and what they think the implications for your organization might be. At the very least, it makes you board meetings interesting.

GRAEME NAHKIES: Steven--

STEVEN BOWMAN: Graeme

GRAEME NAHKIES: So actually the idea of bringing some of your critics into the board meeting to and try to understand why they see things differently from the way you do.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yeah, and this is not about being nice. This is about getting the board over the line so that their reason for meeting is not to read reports on how busy everyone's been, their reason for meeting is to actually monitor and create the future through every choice or decision that they're making.

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: Can I just chip in there, Steven, and I think a really critical part of this. And what actually makes for very great teamwork with management is if the board does involve management like you suggested, not in a way of writing a report, but actually have a conversation about what they are seeing. So share that environment scanning. It can be so powerful and so exciting for management to actually have the chance to contribute rather than being sidelined and told just write us some more reports.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yeah, and just a very practical, real life example of this is sometimes, you've got to be careful who you choose to do that. You don't want to do it that would destroy someone because I've got to go and talk to the board and they don't know what to do. Yeah, so mentoring, absolute mentoring.

We had one recently where the chair of the board said, oh, I'm not sure that'll work for that because the CEO is going to tell them exactly what to say. And my viewpoint well there's your issue, deal with that. So this whole thing is, and it becomes, it makes your board meetings really, really interesting, useful, and focused rather than we meet every month, or we meet every three months, or whatever it might be, and it's just essentially going over reports and talking about what has been.

So looking at strategic planning, strategic planning has got such a bad rap out there. I know very few organizations where they go Woo hoo ooh our next strategic plan is coming up. And we've got to change that because the whole purpose of a strategic plan is it's an ongoing process. It's not something where you meet every three years, you have a plan, and that's the end of it.

Now, you should be reviewing your strategy every single board meeting by listening to what else is happening out there, by looking at what other of these whispers of the future occurring, what it might mean to us in our sector, by looking at an annual review of your strategy, by having the staff talking to you about strategy. All of these things make for incredibly fascinating board meetings that take less time than if you're going over reports that should have been signed off as read at the start of the meeting.

BRETT HERKT: Can I ask a question, Steven?

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yeah, Brett. Fine.

BRETT HERKT: I think one of the reasons management teams fear strategy sessions is that it's linked with the budget and a bit of a beat up from the board about why are you doing this in the budget, why are you doing that. Do you have a view on separating strategy from budget operations, et cetera?

STEVEN BOWMAN: Strategy should set the budget not the budget set the strategy. See one of the problems I find in many organizations is their point of view is that we have to make this money ourselves. Well, what if some of you strategic stuff you could do in concert with others? What are some of the strategic initiatives doesn't have to be funded by you? What are the different ways of funding?

If you just look at your budget, it is based on what we think we know for the next 12 months. There are resource constraints but there are also a zillion different ways of creating resources. So in all the organizations I've been the CEO of and all the organizations I've been the chair of the board of, I have never let budget dictate strategy.

GRAEME NAHKIES: And another problem--

BRETT HERKT: Brilliant, Steven. Thank you for that.

GRAEME NAHKIES: --is that they enter you in the past because the budget is always an increment on the previous year's financial plan.

BRETT HERKT: Yeah, that's right. And I think one of the key things from which we did for the first time this year was actually run the strategy session and we never presented a budget to board. We allowed the purity of the strategy session to play out and then we produced a budget out of the back end of it.

STEVEN BOWMAN: The other sort of practical thing here is sometimes organizations are saying, oh, look our CEO's retired, or they've moved on, or we've assisted them with a career move, whatever the reason might be, should we do our strategy planning session after we get our new CEO.

And my view is look there's no right or wrong time of doing it but I'd be doing it sooner rather than later because once you've identified your key strategies, there's your position description for the position coming up, there the skills that you're going to want from your CEO to help drive you towards that particular potential future going forward. So I wouldn't be sort of waiting.

So good strategic planning should cover, and if we go back to the previous slide, good strategic planning no matter how you go about do it, should have a focus on the future. So absolutely has to talk about your vision and the purpose, and test out whether it's any good or not.

Being aware of different future possibilities, which is essentially scenario planning. Many organizations haven't heard of scenario planning, or don't get involved in scenario planning. And I think that is something that is missing from so many good board discussions, what are the two or three scenarios that could potentially be.

All sorts of different ways of doing it. You can either do it in-house and you can get your management team to develop up some scenarios. They need to get trained on it, or they need to understand how to do scenario planning. What we tend to do is do scenario planning as part of the strategic planning because it then gets people's mindset into five or 10 years into the future.

And then we look at the implications for that right now that if we were to put in place would actually hold us in good stead, whether or not that scenario played out or not. So just be aware scenario planning, there's again zillions of ways of doing it but build that as part of your toolkit. Graeme, I know you do a little bit of work in this area. What's your views?

GRAEME NAHKIES: Yeah, look what I'd aim to, I'd reinforce what you just said. But also add to that the idea of back casting as well. Actually, putting yourselves out into the future far enough that you couldn't get there by doing a bit more of what you're already doing and sort of standing in the place that you want to be. And then saying how on Earth did we get here.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yep. Very powerful and doesn't need to take a lot of time. And then again in terms of strategic planning, one of the things that we see often is strategy plans coming out where the board sign off on nine key strategies. Well, I'm sorry that's probably five or six way too many. You're trying to slice and dice too much.

There's usually only two or three, maybe four key things, these key things that we've just got to get right in the next two to three years that will help drive us towards the vision, help really understand and manipulate what we've learned from the scenarios. And these are the key things that we put in place that gives us a real focus.

If you've got three or four then you know that those are the big things rather than trying and slice and dice in too much. Giselle, you've got some thoughts on this?

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: Yeah, I'm actually just going to pick up on what the key thing is that I'm constantly advocating at the moment. And I want to pick up on a question that Bruce Howard, one of the attendees has asked. His question, Kia ora, Bruce, is a [INAUDIBLE] once said to me strategy is the impact of your decisions today on the two to three generations in the future, I'd appreciate your views on this. So thanks, Bruce. A really beautiful way of expressing it and I think a lot of our country here in [INAUDIBLE] has got a lot to learn from [INAUDIBLE] longevity and long-term thinking.

So on that I really want to pick up on sustainability as one of the key things that boards should be talking about. Any strategy these days has got to talk about having a sustainable business model. And I thought it was really positive to see that the global governance standard, which has been published just this month, which is now ISO 37,000 has actually pulled this idea of sustainable business models right to the fore of appropriate great governance. So that was great to see.

And the work that I do I am still surprised by how many directors, or even whole boards, don't understand frameworks like the United Nations sustainable development goals, donor economics. They have no idea about the circular economy. I know the people on this call probably have got this all nailed but out there in the real world, that's not often the case. So it's a big part of my work and actually sharing the knowledge and certainly I think it's a big shift for directors to start thinking about a sustainable business model, not just profit.

My final point on that is just to mention that in New Zealand we've got this new piece of legislation potentially coming at us which would enable directors to take sustainable principles into account in wider stakeholder interests rather than profit at all costs. So really great to see those two big developments.

SEAN MCDONALD: Thanks, Giselle. Now, we have a few questions that have come in. [? Avery, ?] would you like to read out one of them to the panel.

SPEAKER 1: Yeah, absolutely. So just draw your guys' attention to the Q&A section. There's a lot of questions popping up in the chat but if you can pop them in the Q&A section, we can address them.

So I thought that was really interesting, first you were asking about how this will impact us two to three years down the line. But Pam's asked a different question here saying, given the pace of change, can we really think 5 to 10 years in the future? So what's the flip side of that?

STEVEN BOWMAN: Well, it's not so much thinking about 5 or 10 years into the future, it's being aware of we just don't know. So what should we know that will get us closer to knowing more of what we should know? And you can look 5 or 10 years down the future to some extent by saying, well, what are some of the big macro trends that are occurring that we need to know about, the digitization? What does that mean for us now?

But the main thing is the biggest filter that you can use to help you look at the future is your vision statement. It's your purpose statement. Here's the difference that we want to actually create. Now, what is that likely to look like in three, four years down the track? What do we need to put in place to drive us closer towards that vision? And again, scenario planning is all about the most unlikely, unusual, sensitive, perhaps maybes. And the beauty of that is that you don't then say, oh-- well, let's make sure that future doesn't occur. What it should do is to raise your level of awareness of the possibilities and to see what you could put in place to leverage those now.

SEAN MCDONALD: Thanks, Steven. Brett? What do you got, Brett?

BRETT HERKT: I'll jump in there, Steven, just to add a specific example. So I sympathize with that comment about 5, 10 years out, there's so many uncertainties. But I totally agree with Steven. So one of the things we've done in our business is now we've got a big audacious goal that by 2030 there'll be a million boards around the world doing better governance, either through technology like BoardPro, or the types of training and stuff that ourselves and others are putting into the market.

So really, we're driven by that long term vision. We believe it can be achieved. And then really the strategy, if it becomes subsets of more particularly within a two to three year window, we don't try and plan particularly five years out. And I know Steven will talk to more of this through his lenses.

GRAEME NAHKIES: There's an understandable anxiety about the 5- to 10-year outlook, because it is inherently unknowable. But the reality is that boards and management teams are making decisions almost every day about [INAUDIBLE] for example, where the lifetime of that asset that they might be investing in is way, way beyond 10 years. OK, Steven, back to you.

STEVEN BOWMAN: OK, great. Well, look, I'm just looking at some of the questions coming through. And we will cover a lot of those as we can. But I really like this. Scott said, ISO 37,000, where are we injecting purpose into the strategic planning discussion?

Purpose, vision, whatever you call it-- some organizations call it pillars of being or mission statements. It doesn't matter what you call it. But the big thing is why do we exist? What is the difference that we want to make? In the end, I don't really care that much about the organization. I care an awful lot about the difference that they're going to make. And so what do we need to put in place to ensure that we are actually creating this difference.

Now, you can never assume that your vision statement, or your purpose statement, is the correct one. There's, I'll give you the best definition of a vision, or a purpose statement, is very simply this, the best vision statement is one that works. The best purpose statement is one that we use shamelessly in everything. And the reason that we use it is because it gives us a filter and a focus to actually be strategic and look to see what might be into the future and what we need to put in place.

BRETT HERKT: Can I jump in there, Steven?

STEVEN BOWMAN: Please do.

BRETT HERKT: Got another practical example. We did this year. I was horrified that we put up a new purpose statement. One of my board members didn't like it and I sat there thinking what am I going to do here, this will take hours, if we devolve into this, we had other things to get through. My Team rallied and fought hard for that their purpose statement and the board member just sat back and went if that's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Well, the best way to get agreement around a vision and a purpose is not to wordsmith the darn thing. You know I don't care whether it's this word or that word, what I do care is what guidance does it give me to enable me to make, or have the conversations, and make the decisions that we need to make.

I mean, there's, we do a lot of this work, and I'm just remembering a couple that are around. Rural workforce agency Victoria, [INAUDIBLE] OK, their vision statement is health equity for rural, regional, and Aboriginal Victorians. Now, I know some organizations where they spend three days working out whether the word equity is the right word, or not. I don't care. It's the energy behind it that's important.

So in that vision statement, there is two key elements, one of them is health equity, that should lead to a conversation about, well, what do we mean by health? What do we mean by equity? From whose point of view is it equitable? From whose point of view are we actually saying this is health equity? What would health equity look like if we actually had the equity right now? What do we need to do? So these are all strategic conversations.

And then for rural, regional, and aboriginal Victorians. OK, so who are these communities? What are their points of view? What point of view haven't we covered? What are the stakeholder engagements that we need to increase in there? What does health equity look like to them? Not from us to them, from them to us. These are all strategic conversations led by the vision statement that you can then unpack and look at each element of that for every single project, or program, that comes up for the board consideration. Graeme.

GRAEME NAHKIES: Look your comments point to the fact and reinforce it. That purpose sits outside the organization, not inside it. So it's all the comments you are making more about looking out beyond the boundaries of the organization as to how you can identify beneficiaries, how you can serve them better with better services and products. That sort of thing.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Brett's put in the chat there our purpose and vision, and I never disagree with people's definitions, however I don't care. It's the one that we use that's the important one. And if you use both of them, keep them both. If you only use one of them, that's the one I want to focus on because that's the one that provides the guidance and the focus to enable every board meeting to be strategic, every staff presentation to be strategic, every stakeholder engagement to be strategic, because that purpose or that vision is front and center and it provides the filter for everything we say and do.

BRETT HERKT: Can we nudge you along, Steven?

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: Steven, I just--

BRETT HERKT: Sorry Giselle, I'm just wondering, I think this is such a good conversation but I wonder if we could just cover the three essential elements. I think they're so valuable.

STEVEN BOWMAN: I've just been told. We shall do that, Brett. So there are three key elements in here that we need to be aware of that are really useful. The first one is your long term strategy. Your long term strategy actually is your vision, or your purpose. Many of you will have heard of these things called BHAGs, big hairy audacious goals. Rubbish. Your big hairy audacious gold is your vision. It is your purpose that's what you need to be using as your long term strategy filter, 10, 20, 30, 40 years. And you test it every time you use it. And the board is the custodian of that. So they're not giving it, they're the ones who actually both create it and test it every time they meet because they use it shamelessly to help filter all of the decisions that they need to use it.

The second key filter is your strategic plan, usually three years. Most strat plans were found get pretty much completed by about two and half years, just sheer pace of change. So usually top three or four things, not 15, not nine, three, maybe four key things that you need to do within this time frame to help you achieve against the longer vision which is your vision, or your longest strategy, which is your vision or your purpose. Regular updates at the board level. Now, just so everyone knows the board is the owner of the strategic plan. They're also the very worst strategic planning team to develop it but we'll cover that later.

And then the third element then is the operating plan that will actually activate the strat plan. So this is often called the business plan. This is what the management team and the organizational people are going to work towards over the next 12 months, including business as usual. But one of the exciting things for me is that, and this is what I used to do with all my people, is I get them to sit down and look at their existing job and their existing programs, and I would invite them to put them through the filter of the three strategies to see what they could tweak to make them even more aligned with the three or four key strategies of the organization.

Everyone and I even did this-- I did this with our receptionist, and they were able to change the way they did their work to further align with the strategy. But they never thought of it beforehand. Every organ-- every person in your organization, you should or your senior should be sitting with them and seeing what they can do in their current role to help contribute towards the strategy. Graeme, I-- oh, there we go.

GRAEME NAHKIES: Look, this does quote that I've put together for this presentation today actually anticipated the comment you made earlier, your 80% comment the plans were a waste of time. And look to me, a lot of what we've been talking about points to the critical starting point for strategic planning. It doesn't matter who's going to be doing it, who's on the team, but if the board doesn't have that clarity of purpose that we've been talking about then all bets are off. Because everything flows from that.

I was conscious about Bruce Howard's question earlier on. One of the Marion corporations has a vision, if you like, of being a good ancestor. I think that's a brilliant way, albeit, it's pretty broadly cast. For me, the best test of any strategic plan is will it help you make a choice between competing alternatives.

Another test that we quite often put on strategic plans that like you we view a lot of them is could you put another organization's name on it and it would be just as valid. Because so many of those plans that go through the three day exercise that you talked about are so generic and almost meaningless that they're a complete waste of time. And as that infamous cartoon character, Gilbert once said, most mission statements are really awkward sentences that prove the board's inability to think clearly.

BRETT HERKT: I'm going to jump in there if I can, Sean. There's a good question from [INAUDIBLE] as a CEO, and I'm unclear if I should be coaching my board and encouraging them to have the right strategic conversations. So my view as another CEO is absolutely get on and do this type of work and boards, if they're not strategic will automatically gravitate to it and follow your lead. Can we get some views from the rest of the panelists?

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: Now, I'm a pretty passionate about this one, Brett. As I mentioned earlier, some directors really struggle in the strategy space and they do need the CEO and their management team to help them. So that's just reality. So I definitely get on if you need to coach them then differently do. I think it's incredibly important, if you've got one or two board members who are talented strategic thinkers, let them take a lead and let them get the rest of the board a bit excited, and as we've been saying, stimulated.

I was really pleased to see people in the chat saying they're excited to be here. And certainly we want people to be excited about the strategic planning process. And I think a couple of directors who are great at that can make such a difference.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

SEAN MCDONALD: Sorry to interrupt. [? Avery, ?] do you have any other questions there that you want to put to the panel?

SPEAKER 1: Yes, there's another one that's got a couple of people asking, short and sharp. Does a purpose need to be measurable? So Lynette and Julie both asked that.

STEVEN BOWMAN: The purpose, purpose shouldn't be measurable. The purpose is the difference that we want to make. Now, what are we going to do in the short term to move towards that? The actions that you undertake should be measurable but it should be always aiming towards that bigger, that bigger, the view.

So Health equity for rural, regional and aboriginal Victorians. Well, how do we measure that? That's a great question. Is it measurable? I don't know but we're going to find out as we go along. So I would never ever, in my view put by 2029, we will have 49.5% of these things doing this. That's an action. I want health equity, and I'm not going to let anything stand in my way. And if it does, then I need to deal with it.

SEAN MCDONALD: So Steven, back to you again.

STEVEN BOWMAN: All right, so just briefly on this. When, and again, this is from the board's perspective, if you're developing out the strategic plan, the strategic planning process should be well informed. So you need to have people who are subject matter experts plus people who've got points of view that matter plus people who are able to challenge the status quo as part of your planning team. It needs to be considered, constructed, and implemented.

I think we'll move on from there because we've talked about all of the elements there. There's 101 different ways of developing them up but here are the key components. Number one develop up your planning team. I mentioned before as a throwaway line that the research has shown the very worst planning team is the board because they tend to get into groupthink. The second worst planning team is the senior executive.

The best planning team typically is one made up of board, senior execs, and some key stakeholders whose points of view really matter. They give you that outside perspective that has always been there but you've never asked for it. So a planning team of 10, 12, , 14 15, something along those lines, it's not a, what do they call them, town hall meetings where we go out and we canvas 4,000 of our people and dumb it down to the three things that we least disagree about. So that's not really strategic planning.

So moving on then. So that's your planning team. Often, the question is asked should we do research in advance of the plan. My view is never. My view on this one is that strategic plan should tell you what research you need to do, not the research telling you what the strategic plan should be.

Now, on the day we then get our planning team together. The first thing is to look at your vision, or your purpose, whatever it might be, and you either affirm it, or refresh it. The key point here is please spend at least half an hour to an hour talking about how you use your vision and your purpose, does it actually reflect the difference that we want to make, not the wordsmithing, but the practicalities of it. Can we see how we can use it? Does it provide us with the guidance? Giselle?

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: I just want to also pick up on this point as a couple of questions coming through about the hitting of the slide in a way about the planning day. So what are we doing about planning in a COVID environment where we're not all together for a day? How are we doing that? And somebody else asking how long should the session be? I thought I'd throw those couple of practical questions in because I think calling it a planning day does beg the question.

STEVEN BOWMAN: We-- I mean, the planning day doesn't mean that you have to be face to face. We've done dozens, and dozens, and dozens over Zoom. And you just adapted it accordingly. In the end, what you want is a meeting of minds that do not try and dumb it down but actually challenge each other to look at what are these top three or four things. I mean, I'll give you a process to go through. But even if you spent half an hour as a board saying what are these top two or three things we've just got to get right in the next three years that we're not currently doing that are not projects but are actually enabling us to expand a position ourselves even further. That would be a fantastically useful conversation to have.

But a little bit of process in there, what we've found during COVID is that planning has actually become shorter and more focused. So we get it done in about three hours, a really, really solid straight plan. So what was the second question, Giselle?

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: The other ones is several people have asked about facilitator, or not. And you and I have been debating this a little bit, Steven. So go nuts.

STEVEN BOWMAN: I'll go nuts in this one. My view is I said before 80% of strategic plans are useless, they've all been bloody well facilitated by someone. So the issue there is if you're going to get a facilitator get a good one. Make sure that the key question I'd be asking is call up the chairs of some other organizations that the person has facilitated the plan for and ask that chair a very simple question, has it helped change the culture of the board and the way we do our work as a board. Because if it hasn't, why would you have it?

BRETT HERKT: Can I jump in there, Steven? Just to all of the attendees BoardPro is putting together resources, many of the panelists here today have contributed to them. There's a very good E-book on how to do the operational planning process, these templates, and guides, and material there. So please go to our website, go to the blog resources, and take all of the stuff, it's free.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yeah, so in terms of facilitators, yes, just make sure you get a good one. There are times when I as CEO have facilitated our strategic plan because I needed to start with the board and they weren't willing to fork out for a facilitator. So I did the darn thing. Big suggestion don't get one of your directors to do it. It's can be very, very difficult. Thoughts? Yeah, I'm seeing your head nodders from Graeme and Giselle there.

OK, so you do your vision. Then I do some scenario planning of some sort. Keep it to about an hour, looking at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks and what they look like and how we can leverage them. And then the magic of strategic planning then is, all right, so based on our vision, or our purpose, based on the scenarios and the implications from these scenarios for us, based on our major strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risk, what are these top three or four things that will help deliver against the vision, deal with the scenarios if they were to occur, and really help us leverage our major strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks?

Usually three or four things, there might be some subsets underneath those. If you find there's nine or 10 things, then what that will be is slicing and dicing too much. You'll always find, we've always found this, there will be three maybe four key chunks of work, key things and that's why I call them things, not strategies. These are the key things Graeme, thoughts?

GRAEME NAHKIES: Well, look I just like to pick up something that we haven't touched on yet but it relates to an earlier question about what can the management team do? To me, reporting, and this relates to an earlier webinar and a week or two ago, if the executive team is not reporting to the board in terms of impact, which relates to the achievement of the purpose, then it's going to be replaced by activity reporting which is just about how busy the executive team is and how much effort they're putting in rather than what they're achieving. The plan is about achievement and therefore the reporting should reflect that. Yeah.

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: And if we use another language, it's about impact.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yeah.

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: Yeah, I can spot activities if I see a report a mile away. And it's something that always disappoints me. I just should put a plug-in there actually for the BoardPro template for the CEO report which is much more focused on the things we're talking about today. It's very good again that's been made available. So thank you for that, Brett.

BRETT HERKT: You're welcome.

STEVEN BOWMAN: The other thing I'll say here is that once we've identified what these top three or four things are, that's the end of the planning team's role. However, it's only the beginning of the next role which is then it needs to be operationalized. The big problem with many strat plans is they become wish lists of here all the things that we wish we would do.

The reason we call it a plan is because it's a plan, not a list of things. So it needs to have start dates and finish dates for each of the elements, what month in what year do we want to have a real focus on this. How long should it take until we know this has been worthwhile doing? What are the outcome measures? So time frames and outcome measures for each of the elements of the strat plan.

It's not the business plan. The business plan is what we're going to do this year. But my view always has been that the strat plan is the key accountability document for the board and to be we need to have time frames and outcome measures.

SEAN MCDONALD: Right team, we're at time here. We're at quarter to 2. And we have a number of questions. I think let's allow another couple of minutes for another couple of questions. Avery, would like to put those through?

SPEAKER 1: Yes, yeah, there's some really good ones. I'd like to just do this really, this really just straight up one, culture eats strategy for breakfast, is that true?

BRETT HERKT: Oh gosh, I'm going to jump in the air because I thought about that for years through two startups. Culture without strategy is probably going to be a death regardless. Sometimes an awesome culture will figure out the strategy over time but they're both equally important in my view. Be interested to hear other views.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

GRAEME NAHKIES: Distinguishable.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Nice.

SEAN MCDONALD: Sorry what was that Graeme?

GRAEME NAHKIES: I said, they're indistinguishable for me. Yeah.

GISELLE MCLACHLAN: What I would say is that I'm seeing in boardrooms that culture is one of the three or four key things. Every time there's a shift in culture needed and at the moment with the war for talent, that's a really important part of recruitment and retention.

STEVEN BOWMAN: Yeah, and if part of the culture is we are strategic and innovative, well, you better walk the talk then folks. So that's really-- and that's a whole another topic.

GRAEME NAHKIES: Hint, hint, Brett.

STEVEN BOWMAN: A whole 'nother topic around the role of the board in culture.

BRETT HERKT: Yes, lovely. We'll do that.

SEAN MCDONALD: So let's wrap this up everybody. Feel free to contact our presenters today on LinkedIn on the details that you see on your screen here. I'm sure they will look forward to your connection. Brett, as a reminder leads BoardPro, of course, and is always keen to explore ways in which technology can assist the entire governance process for organizations.

Steven's speciality area is independent board and governance reviews, and strategic planning as you've just heard for the last 45 minutes. Giselle is all about down to Earth governance, and thrives on helping boards to build sustainable businesses alongside healthy leaders and lives. And finally Graeme, Graeme's primary interest these days is in exploring opportunities for boards to be more effective in giving directions to their organization.

So thanks, everybody. We hope to see you back for the other webinars in the series over the next two to three months. If you have any questions that weren't answered today, please feel free to email these to hello@baordpro.io and we'll turn those around for you. You'll also receive an email from us after today's session where you'll find a copy of the strategic planning guide and checklist.

So don't forget just as you leave the webinar to go into the draw to win that beautiful pack from our friends at Taken Care Of. Don't forget to complete the 1 minute survey. And we'll announce that winner shortly after the webinar. So thanks again everybody. And thanks panelists for joining us today.