“Strategic Planning.” Few phrases are more likely to cause eyes to roll. And yet few disciplines are as vital to an organization’s success. How do we reconcile this paradox?

It’s like working out at the gym using the wrong techniques. Exercise is essential for health … but doing it incorrectly will hurt you. Just because most strategic planning meetings are poorly managed, and even more are poorly implemented, does not mean that we shouldn’t do it. We just need to do them better.

Looking at your team’s current Strategic Planning maturity, would you say that it is more like a Radio Flyer Wagon or a Tesla? Sure, both will transport cargo. In the Wagon, you are going to feel every bump along the way with sticky steering and a high risk of tipping over. In the Tesla, you will feel the thrill of seamless acceleration with curve-gripping control and a much smoother (and cleaner) ride.

In one of my Leadership courses for  Government Managers, we introduced “VOPAR — the 5 Disciplines of Strategic Management” for how to accelerate the creation and implementation of effective strategic plans.VOPAR is the management compliment to the MICEE model for the 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership. Sustainable success requires good leadership and good management at all levels. Each step of VOPAR has a yin and a yang with specific deliverables to provide the right blend of stability and agility. As a quick refresher, here is a summary illustration of the VOPAR Disciplines.

Traditional Strategic Plans are monolithic, 10-20 page “Wagons” that try to encompass five years of mission, vision, goals, values, strategies, objectives, recent successes, future assumptions, aspirations, initiatives, projects, metrics, services, resources, risks … and on and on. Nobody read it, and it was a maintenance nightmare if we tried to update it. Those may have worked fine in the Agrarian or Industrial ages when change happened over generations or decades, but the Modern era faces more rapid changes and uncertainty.

With VOPAR, we still provide stability with certain components. The one page Community Map reminds us of the key customers and stakeholders we serve. The one-page Strategy Map keeps our team focused on the long-term mission, vision, goals, and values in the face of daily distractions. These are plastered everywhere.

We also need agility to enable the drivers to adapt to changing conditions. For those, we create sub-systems for a Performance Dashboard, Project Portfolio, and Service Portfolio. As a result, just like with a modern Tesla, the VOPAR system allows the strategic plan to absorb shocks along the way while enabling the drivers to act towards a clear long-term vision.

At the 2017 Government Transformation & Innovation Conference, we showcased success stories of public sector departments applying VOPAR to create modern strategic plans. If you’d like to see practical examples at the department and division levels to illustrate how the system scales, check out the free two-part series on YouTube here – Part 1 [https://youtu.be/ZEohmQ8lVfQ], Part 2 [https://youtu.be/AvYHfEi4zRs].


Written by: Lee Scott                                                                                                                                CEO of Unleashing Leaders

Check out our Online School where you will find the VOPAR online course coming soon!

**Parts of this Blog was used for a LinkedIn blog created by Sac State/ CCE. Thank you for agreeing to let us post this Blog written by Unleashing Leaders’ CEO, Lee Scott.