I love strategic work, because it requires information gathering, problem reframing, ideation, and consensus building. It is a perfect match for applying design thinking as a process, and flexing those facilitation muscles that are at the core of a designer's toolkit.
Strategic planning is a great opportunity to apply design methods, and can have a huge impact on the business. By employing design research techniques, empathy-building, and generative activities, I believe designers have a huge role to play in setting organizational strategy, and that infusing the process with design principles and methods can make it more fun and inclusive.
In November 2015, I was appointed part of a task force to create a strategy recommendation for the future of our organization's document storage and collaboration services. I led a research subteam to conduct a lightweight contexutal inquiry project to better understand how our clients were using our services. From that research, we were able to inform the task force and help influence the strategic direction of our service portfolio. Read more about my research process in this post.
Strategic planning requires understanding the current state, the desires and motivations specific to your organization, and facilitating the group in weighing opportunities, challenges, and potential directions. Strategic work requires both generative thinking and a process for narrowing in on a direction. I approach this work from my background in design thinking, and rely on an "open, narrow, close" approach to facilitate strategic planning.
Facilitation, however, doesn't have to be boring. I believe strongly that work should be fun, especially work that often involves high stakes, high tention, and complex stakeholders. The more you can bring people together to cocreate solutions, the more you can foster a sense of inclusion in the process and ownership of the end result.
I often rely on a variety of innovation methods to facilitate strategic planning, designing activities to meet the specifics of the situation and the problem at hand. In the above example, I created a canvas to collect input from a diverse set of stakeholders capturing the challenges, opportunities, and impact perceived by the organization.
At the end of the day, you have to marry your approach to the culture of your organization, and if your strategy involves cultural change, consider the path you need to take to bring people along with you. This is why I believe that finding a way to be inclusive and cocreate strategy leads to a stronger organizational follow-through.