The first part of the activity is a “heads up” that draws out the dream of the team. The second part of the meeting is “sleeves up,” to focus energy on a real world strategy that achieves the dream. The exercise is designed to be fast-paced, highly interactive, and visually oriented. Here’s how it works:
- Hammer out a vision: Our Company R.I.P. (forty-five minutes) The goal of this activity is to get to the big picture and bring the future to the present so that it can be addressed. The traditional approach is to write a success story for the media as if it were some number of years or months in the future. But a better way, albeit unconventional, is to draft a detailed corporate obituary.
This is what Kerry Morrison did in her interview since Hollywood already was dead at the time. The outcome is a much more realistic and vivid picture of perfection, but in exact reverse. What would the article say about your organization’s demise? What would the headline read?
- Remove obstacles. (forty-five minutes) Understanding what the goal or vision isn’t is often more important than understanding what it is because this process outlines the restraints and obstacles. The reality is that restraints always rule. For most people, painting the disaster scene provides more accessible mental images because they’ve seen these situations before. When the roadblocks appear in the future, they are more easily recognized and effectively addressed.
To do this, make a master list of all the items identified in the obituary—the company “killers.” To the right of each deadly factor, list the countermeasure. What is the opposite of the ailment? How will each obstacle be overcome or avoided? These now become the critical success factors that form the framework of the future vision.
- Set goals. (thirty minutes) For each success factor, list a key objective or measurable goal. Use the list you just developed to spark a discussion of the major goals. Combine ideas, wordsmith, refine, remove—whatever is needed to arrive at what the group agrees is a comprehensive list of goals incorporating all the critical ideas from the visioning exercise.
- Prioritize. (thirty minutes) There’s nothing sophisticated here: have each individual write down what they believe are the three most important goals. Then go down the list and ask for a show of hands indicating how many chose each item as the number-one priority. Tally the votes to identify the top five.
- Form projects. (thirty minutes) Now turn the top five priorities into key projects, assign a champion, and put thought into who does what by when. Don’t make this exhaustive and detailed logistics planning, but rather high-level action planning.
Matthew E. May is the author of In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, and blogs here. You can follow him on Twitter here.