Two recent strategic planning projects with clients reminded me of how powerful guiding a group to explore what might be blocking them can be. I often use the Technology of Participation's® (ToP) Participatory Strategic Planning process with clients wanting to have a highly participatory and engaging strategic planning process with widespread ownership for its creation and implementation. In addition to whatever environmental scanning is appropriate, the ToP process has four workshops; Practical Vision, Underlying Contradictions, Strategic Directions, and Implementation.

The Underlying Contradictions Workshop follows an expansive visioning workshop. Instead of moving directly from the Practical Vision into tactical planning, the ToP® process asks participants to consider what might be blocking them. As a result, organizations are able to do a thoughtful analysis of what internal patterns of thinking or behaving, structures, cultural norms or mindsets that perhaps once served the organization well, but now limit its ability to realize its vision. An example of a contradiction may be how the organization has stated teamwork and collaboration as goals, but only rewards individual accomplishments.

It can be an incredibly powerful group exercise to move away from irritants and blaming patterns when referring to reoccurring frustrations and collectively engage in a deeper analysis on how the participants themselves may be contributing and supporting persistent roadblocks. Like the iceberg, the majority of root causes of these blocks are likely under the surface and seldom named, let alone discussed or addressed. Naming, owning, and strategizing around these underlying contradictions allows for systems to intentionally disrupt these often entrenched patterns. It also sets them up well for strategic directions, which focus on substantial actions to address the named contradictions and move towards the vision. 

Feeling energized by my work with groups who are excited and relieved to finally get "unstuck" and move away from the reoccurring patterns that limit their success. Is it time for your organization to do strategic planning? Don't forget to take the time to think about what might be blocking you from your successes.