By: Sandi Verrecchia @satoriinsight

Use Your STRATEGIC PLANNING Time Wisely by

Focusing Your Team with Pre-Work

I am frequently asked to outline my strategic planning process. I have to say I struggle with this question. The struggle is not because I don’t have a process, but rather the process changes with the individual needs of each client. Case in point is the Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) aspect of strategic planning. I believe that an upfront review of the corporate Mission, Vision and Values is extremely important, but unless they need to be overhauled, I usually put the MVV review as part of the pre-work. Where the MVV’s really come into play is testing them against the strategies that are developed from the session. For every strategy we ask the following three questions:

  1. Does the strategy uphold and align with our corporate values?
  2. Does the strategy move us closer to our vision?
  3. Does the strategy speak to who we are and our mission?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the strategy needs to be amended, or a larger, more complex conversation has to take place about the disconnection.  A word of caution, this conversation can derail a carefully planned and tightly scheduled strategy session, but it may be imperative to the future of the organization….so be open to investing the time, and be prepared to shift.

Another pre-work exercise is the SWOT. The SWOT is the age-old exercise of reviewing an organization’s internal weaknesses and strengths and its external opportunities and threats. This too can be a time-consuming exercise that we believe is best started in advance of a session and then firmed up during a session.

Finally, another common pre-work exercise that we like to use is the Goals Grid. The Goals Grid, created by Fred Nickols, is a simple, yet effective tool that creates a platform for open dialogue about what the organization is doing well; what it needs to think about in the future; what it needs to avoid altogether, and what it needs to stop doing completely.  The beauty of this tool is that everyone who completes it will have a different perspective and reality regarding what should go into the grid. Whether the person is operational, a leader, or a Board member, their lens is different, thereby opening a door for exceptional discussion.

© Fred Nickols 2011

The Goals Grid asks the following four questions:

Achieve – What does your organization lack, that you want it to have, obtain, or do in the future?

Preserve – What are attributes, processes etc. of your organization that are important to recognize and to keep on into the future?

Eliminate – What are the things that your company does, or is known for, that you no longer want or are holding you back?

Avoid – What’s in the marketplace that you want to ensure you avoid?


We find that getting clarity on these four boxes is an excellent place to begin a strategy session. As Steven Covey says, ”Begin with the end in mind.”

The Goals Grid can also be used to vet a specific goal. For example, your goal may be to move from $3 million in revenue to $10 million in revenue over a 12 month period. Lofty? Perhaps….perhaps not! However, if everyone agrees that this particular strategy lines up with your MVV then pull out the goals grid and plot the questions.

Want to read more about using the Goals Grid as a planning tool? Check out

Remember that processes are important, but they are not the Holy Grail of strategic planning. Having a consultant that listens to your needs, and pulls together a planning session that is process driven, and meets those needs IS the Holy Grail! Pre-work as part of the process is an effective and efficient way to add structure to a session, keep focus, and increase discussion about important topics without squandering valuable time within the session itself. While the temptation may be to skip merrily ahead in the process, perhaps the Girl Guides’ motto says it best….”Be Prepared.”



Sandi VerrecchiaSandi Verrecchia

Sandi Verrecchia is a Certified Management Consultant, holds a Masters degree and is a professional Leadership Coach. With over 20 years of experience in the financial services, academic and not for profit sectors, her diverse background of consulting, operations, marketing and sales is a wonderful compliment to her passion for coaching.