Do You Know Your Planning Style?

1328372_57165107A couple of months ago, I attended a seminar by James Glavin, in which he suggested that many of us in leadership have been operating with an incomplete picture of “how” we do strategic planning for (and with) our organizations.  There was a lot of valuable content, the presentation and both fascinating and practical, and I experienced a number of “aha” moments.

At the risk of over-simplifying what Glavin said, he suggested that the traditional “objectives – goals – strategies” model of strategic planning fits with only 15% of the population, in terms of personality, etc.  So what about the other 85%?  Are there other styles of planning that might fit you or your organization better?  You can view his presentation slides at the end of this posting, but in essence, he distilled it down to the following four planning styles:

  1. Objectives Oriented Planners – If this is your planning style, you gravitate toward goals, objectives, milestones, 1-3-5-10 year plans, etc.  You know the process and order of the steps that you need to take to move closer to the final destination.
  2. Domain and Direction Planners – You create and use a strategic map (either written down or mental) to move ahead.  You know that where you are at is not where you want to be, you know what the destination is, and you’ll figure out the “big” steps as you go along.
  3. Task Oriented Planners – Your primary methodology is to make lists of everything that you need to do.  You are less concerned about the final destination, and more concerned about what has to happen in order to actualize the steps needed to get there.
  4. Present Oriented Planners – Your primary focus is on what is happening right now.  Someone else’s plans are nice, but somebody has to do something today, if things are going to happen.  And that person is you.

Each of these four planning styles could be further expanded on, but I think we can get the basic idea from the short descriptions above.

As you read through the list, you probably found yourself gravitating to one (maybe two) of the planning styles.  And if you are the leader of a team, you might also have done the same thing for each of your team members.  What is my style?  What are other people’s styles?  And most importantly, how do these styles work together?

I’ll get to that in a second, but first let me tell you about the team that I lead.  Although we each have secondary styles, each one of us has a different primary planning style (remember that we are not talking about leadership styles … that is a different topic).  For example, my primary style is domain and direction, and our administrator is objectives oriented.  In other words, in terms of planning styles, our team is diverse.  But, if we don’t work well together, diversity can lead to dysfunction.

Which leads to the second “aha” moment that I had in Glavin’s seminar:  He explained how the four styles work together, if a leadership team is to be collaborative and efficient, and ultimately, effective.

It all starts with the Domain and  Direction Planner – the person who sees the challenge of the current situation and the vision/promise of the future situation (and often the big/key steps that need to happen).  Then, the Objectives Oriented Planner takes the vision (once it has been articulated by the Domain and Direction Planner) and asks, “What are the outcomes now and for the next few years to see this vision become reality?” – goals, objectives, and milestones are created.  Third, the Task Oriented Planner asks, “If those are the specific goals and outcomes we are aiming for, what are the tasks that need to happen?  I need a list of things to do.”.  Finally, the Present Oriented Planner says, “Finally, now I know what I have to do today!”.

Now of course, real life is not quite as linear as that.  🙂  In terms of a collaborative team-based planning process, though, here is the last critical piece that I am discovering.  As the leader of the team, I need to let each team member have the strongest voice when we are in the realm of their particular planning style.  In other words, I need to strategically give up control in certain contexts so that the strengths of our team match the needs of our planning process.  An organization’s success depends on the entire leadership team, not just the team leader.

Well, there is a lot to think about when it comes to effective team-based planning.  And I feel like I am only just beginning!  What about you?  What have you experienced in terms of team-based planning?  What advice, suggestions, or questions do you have?


Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.