Each small group then discusses its Top-Level Goal, and writes up the key ideas as bullet points. The group can do this formally, by working through each bullet point in turn, or it can be done informally, taking the concepts and working through them in a less formal manner. To develop Objectives for each goal, participants follow four steps.

Step 1. State the outcome of the Top-Level Goal in the positive.
Step 2. Ensure the goal is doable by breaking it down into its main components, or Objectives.
Step 3. Ask how they will know when they have achieved the goal’s outcome? The answer to this question will help identify the Measures and Metrics for progress toward achievement of the goals.
Step 4. Identify who will be responsible for the achievement of the goal, and who will be accountable.

Step 8: Develop Strategies to Achieve Each Objective

By using this approach in Step 7, the strategies become so obvious that they almost “fall out” of that step. The small group then takes the components of the Objectives from the previous task, and asks these questions:

  • If we turn these components into strategies, will we have a comprehensive strategy for achieving the Objective?
  • What other steps must be taken to achieve the Objective? Turn those steps into strategies.
  • In what order do those strategies need to be accomplished?
  • What are potential enablers? Who may be able to help and how? What

    additional resources might

    be useful?
  • What are potential inhibitors? Do we have the skills and capabilities? Are there any policies in place that might inhibit us?
  • Who should be responsible for each strategy?

Once these questions are answered, each group pulls together all the Objectives and strategies for each Top-Level Goal and presents it to the other groups. The whole group then discusses all the Top-Level Goals, objectives, and strategies, and any links, overlaps, or gaps between them. The consultants capture the discussion using a modified Mind-Map, and the group decides how to handle links and overlaps, and how to fill in the gaps.

Step 9: Develop the Action Plan

The Action Plan is a sequence of steps that must be taken or activities that must be performed well for a strategy to succeed. An action plan has three major elements:

Specific tasks: What will be done and by whom?
Time horizon: When will it be done?
Resource allocation: What specific funds, hours, facilities, etc., are available for each activity?

The participants return to the small groups they were in for the previous session, and develop an action plan and timeline for all the steps that must be taken to achieve the strategies. The Action Plan is quantitative—in other words, it has something measurable that must be accomplished by a certain time in order to achieve the strategy. There may be several action steps for each strategy.

Each group is assigned a different color of Post-It notes. Once the group has developed its Action Plan, it writes down the major steps on the notes, and they are placed, in order, on a huge timeline we have prepared that covers the appropriate number of years. We then photograph the entire timeline.

Finally, all the participants take a first rough look at the timeline and comment on any obvious discrepancies in the timing of the tasks. This is a good time to ask “What’s missing?” questions. Later, the organization’s strategic planning group will prepare a proper Critical Path Analysis of all the tasks.

Step 10: Develop the Implementation Plan

An Implementation Plan is also a sequence of steps, but it describes the how. It discusses in greater detail the responsibilities of those individuals accountable for overseeing the Action Plan. It also discusses policies and procedures, in case problems are encountered with the Action Plan. It often contains information on possible inhibitors and problems, and outlines ways to deal with them.


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Christine MacNulty
CHRISTINE MacNulty has forty years’ experience as a consultant in long-term strategic -planning for concepts as well as organizations, futures studies, foresight, and technology forecasting, technology assessment and related areas, as well as socio-cultural change. For the last twenty years, most of her consultancy has been conducted for the Department of Defense and the Services, NATO ACT, NATO NEC, the British Army’s Force Development & Training Command, and the German BBK. Prior to that her work was in the commercial arena where she had Fortune Global 500 clients. During the last thirty-five years Christine MacNulty has contributed methods and models for understanding social and cultural change through people’s values. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in 1989. She is the coauthor of two books: Industrial Applications of Technology Forecasting, Wiley, 1971 and Strategy with Passion – A Leader’s Guide to Exploiting the Future, August 2016. Her paper: “Method for minimizing the negative consequences of nth order effects in strategic communication actions and inactions” was published in NATO Defence Strategic Communications Journal, p 99, Winter 2015. Two monographs “Truth, Perception & Consequences” (2007) and “Transformation: From the Outside In or the Inside Out” (2008) were published by the Army War College. Perceptions, Values & Motivations in Cyberspace appeared in the IO Journal, 3rd Quarter, 2009, and The Value of Values for IO, SC & Intel was published in the August 2010 edition of the IO Journal.
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