Charting Your Course: Electrogrid Corporation
Electrogrid Uses FacilitatePro to Spark Collaborative Strategic Planning
After a grueling day spent hammering out a vision for the future of Electrogrid, the CEO turned to his seven officers. "We need to involve all thirty-six directors, who will bring us a first-hand perspective on our customers, markets, employees, and regulators, in our strategic planning process." One officer looked skeptical. "We have a hard enough time getting ourselves on the same page. It’ll be challenging to get all our managers in one room focused on one agenda." Another added, "With all these different perspectives it’s going to be like trying to herd cats." "In fact," said the third, "the directors don’t buy into the plan. It’s going to be pretty hard to get their attention".
Electrogrid (pseudonym) is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation charged with operating the wholesale power grid in a large, populous state. Electrogrid provides equal access to the grid for over 90 power plants and utilities serving over 30 million consumers, and also acts as a clearinghouse for nearly 30,000 market transactions every day. Planning for the future supply and transmission needs of the state is a vital part of Electrogrid’s role.
Internal Strife Short-Circuits Strategic Planning
Electrogrid operates in a very dynamic market and complex regulatory environment. Conflicting state and Federal mandates were mirrored in internal conflicts and factionalism that created obstacles to progress on any front. To make matters worse, public skepticism had created public relations challenges.
Facing the need for multiple major new transmission projects, the CEO initiated a strategic planning process to create the roadmap that would guide Electrogrid into the future. He wanted to implement a dynamic planning process where strategic decision-making can occur continuously within the organization as new opportunities or threats emerge. This type of strategic management requires increased input and collaboration from key knowledge workers in the organization, with room for innovative thinking. The environment in which strategic planning takes place would have to be open and receptive to new ideas.
Electrogrid (pseudonym) is not-for-profit public-benefit corporation charged with operating the wholesale power grid in a large, populous state..
Electrogrid needed to develop a strategic plan to operate effectively in a complex new market and regulatory environment. Facing public skepticism, the company also had to deal with challenging internal politics that had sabotaged previous strategic planning efforts.
The CEO turned to Facilitate.com’s web-based decision support software and consulting expertise to overcome challenging organizational dynamics and create an efficient, as well as effective, strategic planning process. FacilitatePro, the collaboration software, helped keep everyone engaged in the process while encouraging a free flow of ideas..
Electrogrid was able to utilize input from over 40 officers and senior management to develop a strategic plan that had broad support across the agency. The entire process not only overcame the challenges of internal politics, but actually increased trust and cooperation among senior management..
Previous attempts at strategic planning had failed due to lack of buy-in by the corporation’s managers, starting with the 36 directors. Some of the issues raised were lack of trust among the leadership team and lack of input from those in the trenches. Taking the lessons of experience, the CEO understood that up-front participation and input of the directors would be critical to buy-in, and therefore success of the plan. In addition, difficult group dynamics presented a challenge that must be managed for the process to succeed.
Using Web-based Collaboration to Circumvent Organizational Conflict
Electrogrid’s CEO decided to integrate web-based decision support technology into the planning process, not only to address the issues of participation, buy-in and difficult group dynamics, but also to encourage strategic thinking and innovative ideas within the leadership team. The CEO was looking for technology to help
- speed up the process;
- foster a collaborative environment getting beyond positions and personalities;
- enable input from a large group so that everyone gets a say;
- provide immediate and complete documentation;
- permit the group to collaborate before, during and after the strategic planning workshop.
Electrogrid selected Facilitate.com to provide both the software and consulting services. FacilitatePro, a web-based decision support application, provides the broad range of tools Electrogrid required to support the pre-work, the planning workshops, and even follow-on activities.
"A process that typically takes several days of meetings was accomplished in a single face-to-face session. I was amazed that using the software had such an impact on the depth and quality of discussion." —
Important factors in the selection of Facilitate.com were
- the ability to set up online surveys and discussion forums in FacilitatePro, which enabled (allowed) the directors to participate from their offices and to identify key focus areas for the workshop;
- the expectation that the anonymity provided by the brainstorming tools would allow for an open and thorough sharing of ideas and give everyone an equal voice in the strategic thinking process;
- the workshop design and facilitation expertise offered by Facilitate.com consultants, ensuring appropriate use of online and offline, synchronous and asynchronous activities, for the most effective planning process;
- the expansive FacilitatePro toolset, which includes tools for brainstorming and categorization, prioritization, voting, action planning, surveying and reporting.
The Process in Action: A Creative Mix of Online and Offline Activities
Facilitate.com consultants delivered a creative mix of online and offline activities for a comprehensive strategic planning process.
||Identify the strategic areas that the group would focus on during the one-day planning workshop
||Offline: face-to-face interviews with CEO and officers
Online: survey and discussion forum for thirty-six directors.
CEO and officers were able to review the online input, request clarification, and identify seven strategic areas of focus.
|Workshop Environmental Scan
||Capture as much knowledge about Electrogrid’s environment and key issues as possible.
||Anonymous large-group brainstorming (using FacilitatePro) encouraged a free flow of ideas and innovative thinking
|Workshop Strategy Recommendations
||Consolidate the large group input into a series of strategy recommendations and
reach broad consensus on strategic direction
||Using printed reports documenting the results of the large group brainstorms, small groups worked offline to develop a strategy brief for each of the seven areas of
focus. Briefs were presented to large group as a whole, who then commented and voted online as to how well each recommendation addressed key issues
||Solidify sense of ownership in the strategic plan
||Using FacilitatePro attributed brainstorm, workshop participants were asked to share ideas about how to incorporate the strategic plan into their own
division or department planning.
||Determine next steps to move forward
||A small group of managers volunteered to work with the Director of Strategic Planning to develop the budgets and controls to complete the strategic plan.
||Refine and test strategic recommendations
||Small group work with several iterations of anonymous large-group feedback made it possible to rapidly refine the recommendations while allowing everyone to have a
Shared Success Lays a Foundation for Future Collaboration
The strategic planning process at Electrogrid was transformed from unproductive and irrelevant into one that everyone agreed was productive and worthwhile.
How did Electrogrid’s experience measure up against the attributes of good collaborative strategic planning? Throughout the process, technology enabled group members to comment freely and honestly, while giving them a structured thought process to keep the discussion focused. Participants had a say on all topics, regardless of their functional area of expertise.
- The strategic planning process at Electrogrid was transformed from unproductive and irrelevant into one that everyone agreed was productive and worthwhile.
- The use of collaboration technology made it easy for all key knowledge workers to participate and encouraged creative brainstorming within a structured framework for strategic thinking.
- Creative use of technology enabled Electrogrid leadership to circumvent difficult organizational dynamics, and ensure buy-in of the senior managers who would be responsible for implementing the new strategic plan.
- Electrogrid was able to develop a dynamic strategic plan that became living, breathing roadmap for Electrogrid’s vision of the future.
- Sharing in the success of the strategic planning process helped build trust and cooperation among the senior management.